Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

Some of my favorite things!

Sunday, September 15th, 2013
The cover (back and front) of my DVD, Art Quilt Design From Photo to Threadwork, with Fabric Collage and Machine Quilting.  Order the DVD from me here, or the download and DVD from Quilting Arts/Interweave here.

The cover (back and front) of my DVD, Art Quilt Design From Photo to Threadwork, with Fabric Collage and Machine Quilting. Order the DVD from me here, or the download and DVD from Quilting Arts/Interweave here.  Right click so you can open in a new tab and read all the bits on the left.

Today I want to share some hotlinks to some of my favorite things, products that I use and recommend in my DVD.  By having the hotlinks, you can go straight to a site to order.  I expect I’ll be referring folks to this post for a long time; if you discover a link is no longer working, please let me know by leaving a comment or using the Contact Me page and I’ll try to find a new link.   Thanks!  Since this post is quite long, here is what you’ll find below:

  • Threadwork Unraveled, my book about all things thread
  • Point, Click, Quilt! by Susan Brubaker Knapp
  • Mistyfuse Adhesive Web
  • Mistyfuse Goddess Sheets
  • Transdoodle from Mistyfuse
  • Karen Kay Buckley’s Scissors
  • Janome 8900 Sewing Machine
  • Havel’s Scissors
  • Panasonic Titanium non-stick Iron
  • Textile Paints and Derwent Inktense Pencils

Threadwork Unraveled by me, Sarah Ann Smith

Cover425My book is about all things thread.  You’ll learn everything you need to know about thread, from how it is made to what will make your life easier, and your quilting better!  The book is organized in three sections:  The Basics, Applique, and Quilting, and is designed to be a reference book you’ll come back to again and again.  You’ll learn how needles, tension, your workspace, sewing machine, stabilizers, and other tools all help you in using all those wonderful threads now available.  I’ll help you understand how and why certain tools and notions work best and when another option is a better choice.  Click here to read more and to order.

Point, Click, Quilt

SusansBookI met Susan Brubaker Knapp over the internet and we have become friends.  We share a similar approach to our art and quilting, and her book is fabulous.  Especially in regard to my DVD and how I work,  I would like to recommend to you the first section on taking and selecting a good photo.  Susan talks about composition, lighting and cropping, all of which are essential to a successful work.  To learn more about Susan’s book, click here.

Mistyfuse Adhesive Web

MW01-2012-Mistyfuse_WhiteMUV01-2012-Mistyfuse_UltravioletMB01-2012-Mistyfuse_BlackI am a complete fan of Mistyfuse products.  I LOVE this fusible web!  It leaves such a light, soft hand, never “expires”, doesn’t gunk up the needle EVER, and works really well.   I also like that it does NOT come packaged with release paper (which in other brands either comes loose too easily, or sticks, or whatever); you use baking parchment of a non-stick press sheet (next item) which is less wasteful than all that release paper, and once you understand how to use Mistyfuse is infinitely easier!   For most projects you would want either the white or the Ultraviolet; the latter is best for light colored fabrics.  The black has lots of fun uses…  All items are listed on one page, so just scroll down until you see what you seek!

and Mistyfuse Goddess Sheets

Mistyfuse Fat Goddess Sheet

Mistyfuse Fat Goddess Sheet

Goddess Sheets are non-stick press sheets.  You could use Reynolds brand Baking Parchment, but these sheets won’t wrinkle and wear out or tear like Reynolds Baking Parchmnet.  I’ve been using my press sheets for YEARS–the only wear and tear is where I accidentally sliced off a sliver with my rotary cutter!   I prefer the largest sheets, the Fat Goddess, so named because it allows you to fuse up an entire Fat Quarter (18×22 inches) of fabric without having to move the sheet.  In fact,

and Transdoodle Transfer sheets and Saral Transfer Paper in a roll

11x17_TD-Jr_11–10To transfer designs, I use Transdoodle or trace; I don’t use a light box.  Either the fabric is light enough in color that I can trace by placing the fabric over the design, OR I layer things up with the fabric on the bottom, Transdoodle Transfer paper in the middle, and the pattern on top.  These sheets last a LONG time, can be used over and over and over again.   They come in 8 1/2 x 11 inch packs with white, yellow and blue in the package.  I use mostly the white and blue.  Saral is a transfer paper available in art supply stores and online and is available in sheets like Transdoodle and in rolls.  It lasts a while, but not nearly as long as Transdoodle.  However, sometimes you just want a long roll of white for a large design or motif.  You can find Saral  here at Dick Blick among other places..  I will note one caution:  if  like me you forget to test for removability, whenever you use ANYTHING yellow, TEST!  It doesn’t like to let go of some fabrics!

Janome 8900 Sewing Machine

My beloved Gandalf, well OK, he's really a Janome 8900.....

My beloved Gandalf, well OK, he’s really a Janome 8900…..

For quite a good long while now I have used and loved Janome’s wide-harp sewing/quilting machines, beginning with the 6500, then the 6600, 7700 and now the 8900.  I LOVE THEM!   In 2003 I was frustrated with my then-machine’s balkiness using assorted fun threads.  I wanted to decide what threads to use, not have my machine dictate what I could use because the machine would otherwise crab at me (for example, on that other-brand-machine, it didn’t like it when I used Superior Threads 40-wt poly in the needle and 60-wt  Bottom Line in the Bobbin; ALL the Janomes I have used  handle that with ease).  When I test-drove the 6500 it handled every thread I put on it with ease, as has every machine since.  I was so in love with my 6500 I didn’t think they could make it better but with each generation they have.   A HUGE, HUGE HUGE Thank you to Janome America for their long-term support of me!  I think I’ll go hug my Janome 8900 right now!

Karen Kay Buckley’s scissors

Karen Kay Buckley Large scissors, my most frequently used

Karen Kay Buckley Large scissors, my most frequently used

Karen Kay Buckley's Medium scissors, which may soon take over as my most-often-used scissors

Karen Kay Buckley’s Medium scissors, which may soon take over as my most-often-used scissors

Karen Kay Buckley's curved tip scissors, great for trimming.  At first didn't think I'd use these much, so surprised at how useful I have found them.  Nice large finger holes!

Karen Kay Buckley’s curved tip scissors, great for trimming. At first didn’t think I’d use these much, so surprised at how useful I have found them. Nice large finger holes!

Karen Kay Buckley's Little scissors, great for detail work

Karen Kay Buckley’s Little scissors, great for detail work

Honestly, I love and use all four of them!    They are well worth the not- expensive price, and will likely soon become YOUR favorites, too. You can find all four of these scissors here on Karen Kay Buckley’s website.  Karen’s products are great; she spent a lot of time perfecting these scissors, and they are now taking off in popularity with good reason!  The Large, Medium and Small are all non-stick coated which is great for working with fusibles!

Havel’s Scissors

Havel's 5 1/2 inch curved tip embroidery scissors

Havel’s 5 1/2 inch curved tip embroidery scissors

The 5 1/2″ curved tip Embroidery scissors from Havel’s are also great.  I find I use them most at the sewing machine. I particularly like the length of the curved blades at the machine.  Thank you!!!!  to Havel’s for sponsoring various and sundry Quilting Arts TV and for sponsoring several Dinner@8 exhibits and International Quilt Festival over the past several years!  And, drum roll–Havel’s is also donating goodies for my part of the Bloghop and Giveaways to celebrate the release on my DVD (more on that on September 17, 2013; giveaways will be in September and November 2013). Thank you!

Panasonic Non-Stick Titanium Coated Iron

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Panasonic TITANIUM Non-stick iron. Titanium coating is usually a gold color. Gunk just wipes clean!

Oh how I LOVE LOVE LOVE this iron!   The key word appears to be Titanium–other non-stick irons don’t work the same way!   And of course this one is lime green–this is GOOD!   There are several models available at the moment on Amazon.  The one pictured is here.  They have other model numbers, different colors.  They key thing is the word “titanium” in the description.   You can put this iron down right on the Mistyfuse, let it melt onto the soleplate, and then wipe it clean!   No more Hot Iron Cleaner!  No more nasty fumes!  For the price of four or five tubes of iron cleaner, you get an iron you can wipe clean!   Mo’ bettah!

Superior Threads

Oooh pretty colors, so many colors!   a.k.a. Sarah's thread stash!

Oooh pretty colors, so many colors! a.k.a. Sarah’s thread stash!

There are many brilliant threads out there now, that is one of the things that prompted me to write my book:  so that folks could understand how to use them.  Since I teach, I try to be fair, honest, and give all companies an equal chance.  There are a number of companies that make threads I use, respect and like:  Superior Threads, Aurifil, Madeira, Isacord and others.   But Superior is far and away the best at striving to educate the public.   I highly recommend the Education section of the Superior Threads website.   As well, they make brilliant quality threads, stand behind their products, and have great customer service.   When I switched from quilting with only cottons to using a wide range of threads (thanks to my Janome’s ability to do so without a grump), I decided to build my stash to “one of each please”–the thread equivalent of the BIG box of crayons!  I did so 10 or 12 spools at a time, and having a wide range makes it so much easier for me to do my thread-coloring.

Textile Paint and Derwent Inktense Pencils

You could spend years having fun with surface design, textile paints, drawing materials and dyes.   My DVD just mentions the use of transparent Textile Paints and Derwent Inktense pencils.   To take the easy one first, Derwent Inktense pencils look like a pencil but, when activated with water and set according to instructions, they are pretty much permanent.  The lead used is also available as blocks, but for the way I used them a pencil works better.  You can find the box of 12 colors here at the Interweave Store;  one year for Christmas I asked for and received the box of 72 (of course I wanted the BIG tin!).  We got it here, at Dick Blick.

There are many, Many, MANY types of textile paints including opaque, transparent, metallic and so on.  You’ll find different ways to use them, too.   In my DVD I used Setacolor Transparent Textile paints (here at Dick Blick , please note this link takes you to a page with opaque as well as transparent–check the instruction in the video to see what you prefer).  I also love Jacquard Lumiere paints, which are opaque, metallic and delicious (Lumiere here at Dick Blick).   Last but definitely not least, I really like the paints made by Pro Chemical and Dye, a dye house in Fall River, Massachusetts.   Click here to visit Pro Chem‘s paint page, where you can find transparent, opaque and metallic textile paints.

Quilting the Egg

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Eggs on White…an exercise in learning to SEE.

A few years ago, one of our younger son’s karate teachers told me about a drawing exercise he learned from Jaime Wyeth (!!!!).  Place a white egg on a piece of white paper and then draw it.  By eliminating all color, the exercise helps you REALLY focus on where the shadows are, reflected light, shape.  So last year about this time, I tried it in my sketchbook.  First I used pencil, but then wondered what it would be like in watercolors (over which I do not have expert control, ahem), pen, and so on.  I tried the pen because before the advent of photography, pictures in newspapers and books were often engravings, rendered by using lines, dots, cross-hatching to create light, dark, shading and shape.  Finally (duh, Sarah) it occurred to me that the same exercise would be well applied to thread and cloth.

  • And a note:  by the time you get to the end of this post (which is long…sorry!), I can just hear many of you saying “I could NEVER draw like that.”  Well, neither could I when I began.  I’ve learned, and so can you, you just need to try.  I’ve learned to teach myself drawing, learned to SEE.  I recommend Betty Edwards’ The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain very highly.

A whole lot of our thread-coloring, quilting with thread, thread-sketching–whatever you want to call it, is achieved the same way artists used pen and ink in the days of yore. You use the direction of the stitching to create a contour, like on a hiker’s contour map of the terrain.  And you can use different colors or use the same color applied more densely to create variations in value–the range of color from light to dark.

One of my first efforts at eggs, using a water-soluble gray ink pen.

When I started playing around, of course I didn’t want to muck up the expensive watercolor paper, so I did a few test-sketches on copy paper:

Practicing directions and types of line to create shading for the eggs. The S and XS are reminders about the size tip on the pen I used, a Pitt permanent black ink similar to the Pigma Microns.  I have found that my Pigma pens just dry out too quickly, and that the Pitt pens work as well on cloth and seem to last longer for me.

Then I tried by drawing in pencil first.  In this photo, I’ve included the eggs on white paper in the background and my ink sketch in the foreground:

The eggs and the ink drawing, which I did to simulate on paper what I might do in cloth.  This sketch was done relatively quickly, so I’m pleased that it gives a decent rendition without taking eons to do it.  If you look carefully at the egg on the right, look at the  left side.  There is a triangular wedge of shadow BUT at the bottom, *under* the edge of the egg, it actually becomes a brighter / lighter gray from light being reflected and bounced up off the white paper!  Whooda thunk it?  And just in front of the tip of that egg…notice that glow of white *under* the egg?   It’s amazing what you can see when you really start LOOKING at something!

Next, a comparison using three different media:

From top to bottom, the eggs done in pencil, watercolor and ink.

Then this year I signed up to teach at Friday Sampler in Houston; think of this as speed dating for quilters!  About 20 teachers are in a ginormous room at the Houston convention center, each with their own Station (one or two tables).  The teacher does brief (5-10 minute) presentations…same one over and over.  The students/participants can come into the room and move from station to station at will to see what each teacher has to offer.  I’ll be talking about Thread-Coloring, so I thought it would be the ideal time to do up some new samples to teach how to see light and dark, light and shade.

This sample shows the lines I drew in blue pen (quilted in a similar blue since over time those blue pens can fade out with humidity!), followed by three variations in quilting them.  The top two quilted ones are stitched with ONE color of gray thread (the new Magnifico poly from Superior Threads, and it is magnifico!).  The bottom set of eggs is quilted with white and three shades of gray (light, medium, dark). You’ll notice two sets of cast shadows…that is because there was light coming from two directions:  the electric light and the window.

All four versions in thread: the blue is to represent the markings I put on the quilt. The second set of eggs is quilted with cross-hatching of sorts using one color of gray thread. The third set of eggs is quilted with a scribble using one color of gray thread, and the bottom/fourth set of eggs is quilted with the same scribble but using three shades of gray. For all three of the quilted sets I kept the way I stitched the shadows consistent to make comparisons easier.

Just as I did with my paper sketches, I did some practice runs on an old warm-up quilting sandwich:

It’s good to try out various options on a scrap quilt sandwich before working on the real thing.

I’m not thrilled with the cross-hatch stitching I did on the final sample…those ovals on the top just don’t do it for me.  I would not use this quilting on an actual art quilt…that’s the benefit of test-driving quilt designs on scraps and samples.  I really liked the way the scribble versions turned out, though!  Here are some close-up photos so you can see better:

The “marked” (blue) design and the first of the quilted eggs.

The bottom two quilted sets of eggs.

The blue applique vest

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Since there is SO much that has happened in the past two months, I’m going to alternate between the April trip and vacation and other events.   For about two years now, I have wanted to make a vest to wear while teaching applique to show the various types of machine applique and decorative stitching that I teach (two different classes), and how the samples can be used in various projects including clothing, not just quilts.

Here’s me in the just completed vest, frizzy hair, no makeup (and therefore disappearing eyes…I SO envy people with dark eyelashes!) and all:

I thought pictures of the vest pinned to the design wall would make it easier to see–this is the front:

and the back:

At least 12-14 years ago, I bought Make Your Own Japanese Clothing by John Marshall (yes, THE John Marshall who teaches katazome and shibori, makes amazing silk, etc…..  his website is guaranteed to keep you looking for a long time!).  Amazingly, the book is STILL in print (tells you  how good it is); you can find it at Amazon, here.  The Japanese use 14″ wide lengths of cloth to construct their clothing without cutting into the cloth from the sides, so garments are based on rectangles, which makes for easy sewing.  I developed this pattern when I made my Frayed Edges vest (seen in the second photo in this post).

In a nutshell, take your measurements or measure a vest with a fit that you like.  To make the math easy, let’s say 42 inches around.  Divide by 3 and by 6:  1/3 of 42 is 14.  1/6 of 42 is 7.  The front of your vest needs to be, therefore, 14 inches or 1/3 of your circumference (finished…remember to add seam allowances!), the back is the same.  The sides are 1/6 of the distance around you or 7 inches.  It’s that simple!

When I first made the vest, I used rectangles for the sides.  The bottom of the rectangle hit my hit and bent, making me look decidedly hippy and wide.  So I changed the shape to arch on the bottom, with the same curve on the top.  It turns out to be easy AND flattering!

Since I had weird shapes and samples for my applique blocks, I decided to draw out the shape of the vest (used an existing vest to copy the angles for the shoulders and neckline, but modified the front “v” to be slightly curved, again, a flattering line) on RinsAway, a lightweight wash-out stabilizer which I used as a temporary base for construction and decorative stitching.  I placed the applique blocks in a pleasing arrangement, then figured out what I needed to use to fill in the gaps.  I selected about 6-8 prints and cut strips 1 1/2, 2 and 2 1/2 inches, then sewed them together.  I cross-cut sections to create the pieced inserts….I just used a ruler to measure the size I needed, added 1/2 inch (a quarter inch seam allowance for all sides) and cut.

In the photo of the back, the cut pieces and trimmed applique samples (not yet stitched for the fused ones), are pinned to the stabilizer.  In the photo of the front, below, I have pieced together the random shapes and cleaned up the edges.  The pieced fronts are now spray basted to the RinsAway stabilizer in preparation for the decorative stitching.

After stitching, I removed as much of the stabilizer as I could, and sewed up the garment using the usual way of making a vest (it’s a bit of a mind-wrap…you sew the outside to the lining except at the side seams, then turn it right side out  through an opening left in the lining shoulder seam—it seems impossible until you’ve done it!).  Because I tend to get warm walking around the classroom all day (yes, my feet ACHE and THROB by the end of the day), I did not add batting or quilt this one.

I used both turned edge and raw-edge / fused applique, with various sorts of decorative stitches.  I particularly like the vine coming down over the left shoulder onto the front and the blue background / white sprigged stem (reverse fused applique) on the front.  For the turned-edge pieces, I’ve discovered this new product that I love…. C&T’s washaway applique sheets (click on previous link to see the product).  It has as much body as Ricky Tims’ Stable Stuff (which I still love), but it  is IRON ON!   You can run the sheets through your printer if you want (for example, to print off a zillion identical leaves or to produce templates for a design), cut out the shape in the C&T sheets, iron lightly to the wrong side of the applique fabric, and press the edges.  You can use either a washable glue stick, starch, or just heat to turn the edges before stitching down.  Way cool!

Here are some detail photos of some of the blocks–see what a difference the stitching makes between the buds on the left and the un-sewn ones on the right?:

And my two-layer leaves, which I developed for my Balinese Garden table runner (more on that in an upcoming post!):

In the photo above, I’ve used a blind hem stitch, available on the most basic machines, to stitch the right side of the stem. In the next photo, you can perhaps see better.  I subsesquently used a 2-sided feather stitch to outline the dark inner leaf and stitch down the lighter outline:

I came up with this 2-layer leaf because on a different project I wanted to use a busy, medium-value (not light, not dark) fabric for the background, and still use medium-value fabrics for the leaves.  Set directly onto the background, there would have been almost NO contrast and the leaves would have been visually lost.  By layering up the leaves like this, you get a nice contrast and outline without having to satin stitch (which while lovely is VERY time consuming, uses LOTS of thread, and may not be the look you want).  Hope you like the vest!

Windows and Sketches–Exercise your Imagination!

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Download is available here: Windows and Sketches PDF.

The September issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited is now hitting mailboxes, so I thought I’d share the cover:

productimage-picture-mqu-september-2009-22_t280

My article this month is about texture:  both literal and visual texture in machine quilting.  Quilts can be old-timey puckery like the 1930s quilts we know and love, but they can also be (literally) flat, like the fabric postcards made on Timtex or Peltex (a rigid stabilizer sometimes used in cap brims).  But there is also visual texture…what the eye thinks it sees depending on the type of line created by the quilting.

One fun exercise is to give yourself 30 minutes (at most!) to fill the 12 small boxes on a page.  Fill each square with a different “something” from around your house and garden; for a change of pace, take your sheet (or another one!) into town, walk in a park or look at the downtown buildings, and look for images that might make good quilting designs.  Check out the article for more information!  It is in the September Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine (ask your local quilt shop to carry it!) or order an issue / subscribe at www.mqumag.com.

Here’s the Windows and Sketches workpage I shared in the magazine:

2009.08.Blog.WindowsSketchesFilled600

You can download a blank template of this form using the link at the top of this post or here: Windows and Sketches PDF.  This is what the blank looks like:

2009.08.Blog.WindowSketches

Leaf and Vine Motif

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The newest issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited is out, complete with my article on Negative Space or what I like to think of as “the spaces in between.”  I promised a download of the leaf and vine motif from the feature quilt, Little Brown Bird, which I’ll share in another post.  For a full discussion of negative space, you can buy a copy of the magazine here, but here is a quick recap.  Think of a chair with slats on the back:

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The spaces between the spindles on the back are “negative space.”  The chair itself is the “positive” image.  Likewise, the spaces between the legs and rungs are negative (or “in between”) space.

For the article, I created some examples based on the principles of Notan.  The definitive book is Notan:  The dark-light principle of design by Bothwell and Mayfield.  The Yin/Yang symbol is the class example of positive and negative space.  Each teardrop shape is identical to the other, but one is dark and one is light.  The two are perfectly balanced, and the proportions of the small circle within the teardrop, the shape of the large end of the teardrop, and the entire circle are all geometrically related:

sasmithaprilmquxsmall002

Here is the vine motif I developed:

sasmithaprilmquxsmall001

If you like this motif, I’ve prepared a PDF which you may download for your personal use.  Since it is under copyright, please don’t sell it or use it in classes you might teach (without receiving my written OK first), or other nefarious stuff… please DO use it in your quilts, modify it, and have fun.   Also, this is my first time trying to create a down-loadable PDF, so I’m hoping it works!  To download the PDF version (with the black removed so it doesn’t eat up your ink), click here: leafandvinemotifpdf

Enjoy!