Thursday, June 27, 2013

To embellish or not to embellish..........that is the question!!



Well.....in my case 'tis a rhetorical question as there was never any doubt that I would embellish.....even if only a little!!

And besides.......Little Miss Rhapsody in Blue is clamoring that she has a little bling sewn to her frock. Her French lace-cuffed hands are on her hips, ever so impatiently stamping her shiny, bright blue, satin slippers, petulantly demanding that her gorgeous, blue-hued frock be embellished with a little razzamataz!!

And....what do I need to add an ounce of sparkle, a shimmer of glitz to Little Miss Rhapsody in Blue?

Well......I must, must, MUST have a plethora of beautiful blue ribbons, of various widths to fashion ribbon flowers into a gorgeous arrangement of floral beauty.


And, of course I must have a receptacle in which to hold these flowers.
  
I happened upon a gorgeous vintage Indian sari in one of my favourite vintage shops in Sydney (Frou Frou Old and New) which had four of these wonderful jewel encrusted embroideries sewn on to it. I, of course, snapped it up for a song, having no idea at the time of what I was going to use it for; but I had an inkling that it just might come in handy some day as I strolled down my colourful, quilting path. And come in handy it did!

This exquisite embroidery reminds me of the beautiful French jardinieres from a century or so ago, that were filled with masses of floral extravagance with the odd cherub smiling amongst the flowers, with scrolls and cartouches dancing everywhere. So.....I decided to carefully stitch it on the quilt and fill it with a bouquet of flowers and leaves representing every shade of blue as a feature of Little Miss Rhapsody in Blue.

This jewel encrusted embroidered fancy is a beauty. The beads and jewels are sewn on duck egg blue tulle and has  a gorgeous aged patina where the jewels shine with a wonderfully muted brilliance. It is truly stunning......... and how serendipitous that I should find such a treasure!

 So....after ruching length after length of ribbon into zinnia-like flowers, folding and stitching french wired ribbon into blousey roses, stitching dancing ballerina-like fuchsias,  manipulating ribbon into pansies and fashioning ribbon into 'boat' leaves; with the addition of the odd smidgen of French lace here and there; I then stitched these efflorescent blooms where they now sit for evermore in the vintage 'vase'.


An overspilling abundance of floral extravagance.
  





 And....my signature vintage glove holding two or three long stemmed flowers.


And to finish the embellishing, swirls and swirls of ruched ribbon, buttons, buckles, beads and a few pieces of vintage ornamentation meandering it's way across Little Miss Blue.


 

 



I have covered the back seams with a 50mm width satin ribbon to cover any messy seams (as the backing is satin and just would not behave; there are a few seams that, let's just say, are a little less than perfect.....AND I am a bit of fusspot). Besides, by doing this the seams will have added strength.



Now......drum roll please................after stitching what seems like millions of tiny stitches, numb needle picked fingers and the bearing of Quasimodo after being hunched over and stitching for what seems an eternity......here she is....................

Little Miss Rhapsody in Blue.......... posing in all her glory complete with a pert little 'Alfreda' concoction (a present from my daughter whilst she was in France) sitting atop her pretty little head!


  



A blue-hued, embellished hexie which I hope will give many hours of delight to my very special friend Michelle!! Ours is a friendship of thousands of fibres connected to each other; threads which have lasted the gamut of life experiences....oft times hilarious, sometimes sad, shared interests, companionship, bottomless cups of tea AND always......Cadbury's chocolate!!

 

So Little Miss Rhapsody in Blue is all neatly folded, tied with a shiny blue satin bow waiting to make an appearance at her new home......where I hope she will give many years of pleasure as her new owner gazes upon her, bringing to mind special thoughts of a special friendship.

 It has been said that the road to a friend's home is never far......mmmmm.....well in this case my journey with Little Miss Rhapsody in Blue will involve a flight on a giant silver bird, flying over a very big pond, crossing a state till we arrive in Ole Sydney Town. Not to worry......I am looking forward to enjoying a lovely long weekend celebrating with my dear friend. I do hope that Little Miss Rhapsody in Blue behaves herself in the cargo hull of the big silver bird......she is not one for being couped up for too long.......and let's hope that she doesn't go missing in transit!!

 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Begin at the begin....how to make a hexagon quilt


 
 
Let's start at the very beginning........'tis a very good place to start......
 
...........which is a pity really, as I always find the beginning of a 'quilt-as-you-go' hexagon quilt a wee bit tedious. All that cutting......hexagon after hexagon......the batting, the backing and the top fabric.......plus the myriad of laces required to prettify my quilt, are required at the start. But all that ho-hum preparation in the beginning is well worth it when you get to the fun part....the part when you embellish and needless to say; the end, where with the final stitch stitched, you have in your pin-pricked and calloused fingers, one very original and spectacularly sumptuous, embellished hexagon quilt.....quite unlike any other that has gone before!!
 
The beauty of this quilt is that you can take each individual hexagon with you wherever you go and work on it and as each hexagon is finished, you sew them together until it grows to the required size. Then, when the quilt is all together you embellish it as little or as much as you desire or, perish the thought, you may not want to embellish your quilt at all. Me being me, whose philosophy is 'more is never enough' and who has a soft spot for those gorgeous crazy quilts of yesteryear; I rather go to town with the embellishing stage!
 
Though I have stitched many different sized hexagon quilts, this quilt is going to be made up of 14 inch hexagons as I only have four weeks  to present my 'piece-de-resistance' to my friend in honour of her 50th birthday. I'll probably be living on a wing and a prayer for the next little while but I am determined to deliver one gorgeous (well I hope it will be) lavishly embellished, 'Rhapsody in Blue' hexagon quilt.

AND I must stress that this is one of many methods in making one of many hexagon quilts. You might read this and find another easier way to make your "quilt-as-you-go" hexie. Good for you! To all those quilting purists out there, I apologise in advance if I offend your traditional quilting sensibilities. Though there are many quilting techniques that should be regarded, I am a gal who likes to play and experiment with quilting boundaries and have fun and see what eventuates. Sometimes my playing works and sometimes it doesn't. Quilting first and foremost should be enjoyable, playful and fun (though mind you.......there are those moments when it is downright frustrating..........and come to think of it I am having a few of those 'I am never going to make another hexie' moments in the stitching of my 'Rhapsody in Blue').

I am afraid that I have horrible memories of sewing classes taught by a horrible sewing teacher, with a horrible shrill voice; where it was her way or the highway. Where, if you so much as had a different idea that was just a tad 'too out there' then she would look at you menacingly with her rather large ruler in hand, as if you had committed an unpardonable sin and aboard that rattling old school bus, banish you to sewing hell forevermore! Needless to say, I gave sewing class the flick and didn't give sewing another thought until my husband bought me my first sewing machine when we were newlyweds beginning down the avenue of marital bliss!!!

Find out what works for you, and run with it. To me it is not  always about following the traditional techniques that are set in all those quilting tomes for time immemorial. It is about experimenting and seeing where that yellow brick road of creativity and discovery leads you. More often than not I veer from the acceptable scenic route and meander along the pot-holed, bendy stitching road, wearing my pretty pink and green coloured flower gumboots, splish-sploshing in the potholes that come along my path. Yes indeedy.....I am that gal who walks in the rain......whilst others just get wet!
 
So first things first.........
 
 
In this quilt there will be 5 rows of 6, 5, 6, 5, 6 hexagons with 1/2 hexagons either side of the 5 hexagon row. (As stated above, each of my hexagons are 14 inches across. I made my hexagon template out of thick cardboard as my plastic hexagons only go up to size 12 inches.)
 
 
Cut 28 hexagons and 4 half hexagons of batting.......(or indeed whatever number of hexagons you require).

  
Cut the same number of hexagons and half hexagons of the top fabric.

Cut the same number of hexagons and half hexagons of the backing fabric. This needs to be larger. For this quilt I have made my backing hexagons 17 inches across.

Place the top fabric hexagon on top of the batting and then place the lace or doily on top of the fabric. I suppose I should point out that you place the fabric with the straight grain on the batting.........but sometimes I break this rule. 'Tis very naughty of me, I know.....but I did warn you that I sometimes break the sewing tenets! Pin rather extensively as the fabric and the lace need to be flat. You could of course spray quilting adhesive on the batting and then place the fabric on top instead of using pins...this would make the hexagon completely flat and easier to sew. Zig zag (serge) around the edge of the hexagon. Trim and neaten excess fabric/lace.

Of course if the size of each hexagon for the quilt that you make is a lot smaller and is made from 100% cotton fabric, then, you can bypass the zig zagging around the edge of the hexagon step.


At this point hand stitch tiny invisible stitches randomly all over to secure lace/fabric to the batting.
 

Place the wrong side of the hexagon (top fabric and batting) on top of the wrong side of the backing fabric.

 
Bring the excess backing fabric to the top folding under raw edges forming a border all around the hexagon.

 

 
Pin around the border securing the backing fabric to the hexagon.
 
 
 
At this stage you can either stitch round the hexagon with a tiny, almost invisible blind stitch or if you prefer you could stitch small quilting stitches. I also stitch the mitred corners down. Previously, in other quilts which I have made from 100% cotton fabric, I have carefully machine stitched the border....but.....as my backing fabric in this quilt is satin, and satin has an inbuilt DNA of not wanting to behave; slipping and sliding everywhere.......I have stitched by hand.
 
 
If you are going to quilt the hexagon, then this is the time that you would quilt. Though I have quilted previous 'hexies'......with meandering butterflies and stippling......and also singular motifs/patterns.....I am not going to quilt this beauty. In this quilt I have used fabrics that do not lend favourably to quilting. Besides, each hexagon has lace/doilies that have been stitched to the batting and I will be embellishing with ribbons and other techniques that will anchor the top to the batting. It is really up to you. Perhaps if you feel the need to quilt then individual motifs on each hexagon might be the go. I envisage a puffed, soft eiderdown-ish look to this quilt not an overly quilted and flat look.
 
When you have completed sewing the backing fabric all around each hexagon you can now start to join them. Or.....of course you can start joining them together when you have completed only a few. It is really up to you. This is done by whip stitching the hexagons very closely together at the back. Smooth the fabric down and pin close to the edge ensuring that the batting is  right at the edge inside the hexagon. Make sure that you catch the edge of your batting with the fabric when whip stitching.......this will help the hexagons fit better together and lie flat at the front. Sometimes the hexagons don't align exactly.....easing and tweaking the hexagons whilst stitching them together will fix this problem. Join the first two hexagons and then the next one until you have completed your first row across. Then add the other hexagons one by one until you have reached your final row.

 
Below is the back seam of two hexagons which have been whip stitched together.
 

When I have finished putting the hexagons together I will stitch wide satin ribbon over every whip stitched seam on the back which gives a finished look. This also gives added strength to the seams. Mmmm............more work I know......but I am a bit of a fuss pot.......some would say a tad persnickety!! But I will show you that process in the next post...Part Two.
 
So for those of you who have asked for the 'how to' of my 'quilt-as-you-go hexagon quilts in my previous post.........there you have it. The begins of  a 'quilt-as-you-go' hexagon quilt. I truly hope that this is not 'as clear as mud'.......it can be a bit tricky articulating the why and wherefores of making my hexagon quilts.  
 
Stay tuned for Part Two of the making of my 'Rhapsody in Blue' hexagon quilt......which is really, I think, the fun part.......because this is when I will start to embellish and play with all those ribbons, beads, vintage jewellery, gloves and bits and bobs. I envisage many an hour or two over the next couple of weeks stitching  in front of the fire, transforming 28 hexagons into a splendiforous 'Rhapsody in Blue' tomorrow's heirloom!! 
 
Now before I slip into a mini breakdown....I am going to indulge in a cup of tea in a pretty fine bone china tea cup; and some of Mr Cadbury's chocolate taste sensation..... to bolster my strength for the next stroll down that yellow brick road of embellishing!

 
So until the next time.......Happy Stitching!