Progress….

Here you see 4 new poppies from the last time I posted about my art quilt; clearly, I’ve gotten my machine back!

Here’s a close-up of the 4 new flowers. Reverse applique. And I completed all the zig-zag stitching on the appliques, too; but I had a few struggles with a 50 weight rayon thread that kept breaking, it was a type of thread I hadn’t tried before. With a new needle and lower tension, things improved, but on this purple flower I feel the satin-stitching is a bit lumpy and stressed:

Things look a lot better on the orange poppy, the satin stitch is nice and smooth:

No matter; it’ll work in the end!

I figure I have to make 7 more reverse applique poppy shapes…..

Clare Aylward on Youtube

There’s a video of me on Youtube called simply Clare Aylward.

It wasn’t my idea. Enough people have found this video while googling my name so a small explanation is in order.

My dad had an identical twin, Bill, who was very eccentric and just completely nuts (in a good way); he was also a provocateur and he loved verbal arguments; and he came to Arizona twice last year, once in April to visit for a week, and once in June, to die in hospice care in my parents’ home.

My mom took this photo of us in April, when I’d gone to my parents’ house after work to pick up Bill to take him to the airport and back to Boston; as you can see, one of the twins looks sick. We just didn’t know how sick at the time:

Bill self-published a small newspaper in Quincy, Massachusetts called Black’s Creek. He supplemented his printed paper with videos he posted on Youtube of Quincy-area news and art; he did this because he said the Quincy Public Access cable station wouldn’t let him on the air. Bill really tilted at windmills, though; and I think it’s likely that the public access station was just another windmill.

Bill refused to be edited–he considered it an affront to his art; so, while I allowed him to film me a few times, I didn’t let him use my name as a tag for his many Youtube videos, because I had no idea what he would post and I knew once he posted it, it would never come down, and god knows what would have my name on it.

For example, in this video he took of me during our May, 2008 trip to Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA, I was really irritated with him because he constantly used the camcorder to mediate our time together;  and, of course, he filmed me being annoyed! The whole day, he had the camera in my face. He posted Ipswich Idyll, and considered it a “masterpiece”. If I’d allowed him to use my name, well, my name would’ve been the title of video, no doubt, and any search of my name would turn up a video of me looking grumpy and frumpy at the beach.

I spoke with Bill on the phone last April before he came out to Arizona to visit. He said he wanted to “film” my art quilts for a Youtube. Maybe I guessed something was wrong, because  I told him he could film me at the Grasslands talking about my quilts, and he could use my name as a tag; I told him he could have complete access. He sounded very excited when I told him this. I knew I’d made him happy.

So that’s the explanation behind the Youtube video Clare Aylward.

Bill promised me that I could view the video before he posted it; but, of course, he never let me see it before it went up. He promised me that he’d take my suggestions and edit the piece; but when I saw it, and when I asked him to please do something about my red eyes, he told me he couldn’t fix it. When I suggested another title instead of just my name, he said the title was “perfect”. I think his exact words were, “It’s my greatest work, I can’t change it”. I pushed a bit; and then he said he’d take it down if I wanted. Well, I wasn’t going to ask him to do THAT. I realized he really loved the video and that, ergo, he really loved me, and that was how he could show it. So instead of complaining more about my red eyes, I thanked him for his hard work, and his piano music in the introduction.

Five weeks later Bill was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer; he died 8 weeks after that.  I’m glad that I didn’t make a fuss, and that I let him use my name as a tag. Which to him meant a title, and, ultimately, victory.

Reverse Applique: A Weekend Sampler

I think one big secret to any successful art quilt design is making samples. A sample is a helpful way to “audition” a technique on a micro-level before taking the plunge into the art quilt itself. So, this past Saturday I made a small sample using sheer fabrics and reverse applique. I learned both techniques from Libby Lehman, who is a very gifted artist and teacher, and I encourage anyone who reads this to look into her work.

Before starting my project I first had to make some scones, though: a weekend morning is all about carbs and coffee. There are lots of scone recipes online; this one is pretty good, though I substituted plain yogurt for vanilla yogurt and added a bit more sugar, and I used half spelt flour, and I baked the scones on parchment. But this recipe gives you the proportions. Here are the scones,  just egg-washed:

While I was winding my bobbins I let them over-bake, but they turned out really good:

Thus armed, I started my sample.

In my current project, I have a “design motif” of a flower-shape based on desert verbena. I want to repeat this design motif multiple times in my piece; this is generally a good design principle, at least for me. Using sheer fabric to add a thin, nearly transparent applique is one way; using reverse applique is another way: both of these techniques add very little heft to the quilt top itself.

In both reverse applique and sewing sheer fabrics onto a quilt top, you need a background fabric, which in this case is yellow hand-dyed cotton sateen and is about the size of a fat-eighth; on top of the yellow fabric is a layer of pink polyester tulle, which I’d painted to get that color, if you look at the bottom left corner you can see the 2 fabrics:

Flipped over, you can see I’ve attached some stabilizer scraps with spray-adhesive. The stabilizer is a cotton-pulp fiber that I got on a giant roll from a company in Minnesota; it works well with my machine– you have to experiment with your machine to figure out which stabilizer works best.

So, to get started, I now have the following fabric sandwich: background fabric, tulle on the top and stabilizer on the back:

Below on the left is a pattern for a large verbena flower; I drew the design on the stabilizer part of the fabric sandwich:

Then I sewed over the drawn line with straight-stitch (use a small stitch) along the drawn line. I then reinforced with another line of stitch to make sure it was nice and strong, this is what it looks like on the back….

…and the front…

I then pulled off all the stabilizer from the back, then gently snipped away all the unnecessary tulle on the front, and all that was left was this nice flower held in place with 2 rows of straight-stitch:

So. Now I want to actually start the reverse-applique; I have one layer, now on to the second layer. I draw an outline of the same shape, just smaller:

I then pick the fabric for this flower, a fuschia I dyed, and I used spray adhesive to attach the stabilizer to the wrong side of the fabric; the fuschia fabric is then placed under the yellow fabric, so that the new small flower shape is directly over the fuschia fabric underneath:

Because I use an older machine, I have to unscrew the presser foot in order to fit my embroidery hoop under the needle; then I reattached the presser foot.

The new fabric sandwich–yellow fabric on top, fushia fabric with stabilizer underneath– is then slid into the embroidery hoop, and again straight stitch is used (small stitch) to stitch over the drawn flower shape.

Once sewn, the new, smaller verbena looks like this:

I carefully used snips and cut away the top yellow fabric to reveal the fuschia underneath; at this point I realized I needed to use reverse applique again to make the small pink center for the flower, so I did that in a pinch, using the same techiques described above: now, I have 3 layers: tulle flower, reverse applique flower and reverse applique flower center. Cool!

The whole piece then goes back in the embroidery hoop and I used satin stitch over the raw edges of the flower. It looks OK; my foot pedal had a small short in it which just got worse as I sewed, to a point where I could only get the machine to sew if I used the ball of my foot: an ergonomic nightmare.  So it’s not the best satin stitch;  I didn’t bother trying to finish the center.

So, the general idea is to use the above technique on my big project; here’s an idea of where some of the shapes might be placed:

But my sewing machine is in the shop now, as of this morning: oh well. Looks like I’ll be working on fiddle tunes the next few days…