Monday, February 23, 2015

Inspired by Libby, Part 1

Hi all -

Several of us on (TQS) are doing an informal "Inspired by Libby" challenge. The idea is to make a quilt using one or more of Libby Lehman's techniques or inspired by one of her quilts. The deadline for the quilt is March 31, with the reveal on April 1. We chose this challenge because we love Libby's work and because her DVD is available on TQS right now for paid members. So, my first step was to rewatch Libby's DVD to see what might inspire me.

The first technique she shares is her thread-painted ribbons. Then she shows her technique for reverse applique. In watching those, it dawned on me that the ribbons could look like seaweed in an underwater scene. Then fish could be added using reverse applique. So that's what I've decided to do.

To start, I needed a background. In Libby's DVD, she pieces her background out of squares, but I thought that might be too abstract for what I had in mind, so I decided to look elsewhere for the background. I thought back to one of my classes with Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry (her name is really getting too long) and her applipiecing technique. This technique is used by a lot of different artists with a lot of variations, but I took her class so she's who I will reference (although I'm doing it all from memory so some of my steps might be different from hers).

For this technique, you first draw the pattern on freezer paper.  The freezer paper will be ironed on the back side of your fabrics, so the drawn pattern will come out in reverse. I wanted water and the bottom of the sea, so this is what I drew along with my fabric choices:

I figured the water would be lighter closer to the surface and darker as you got deeper. And the bottom would be darker in the background and lighter in the foreground. So that's what I went with.

Since I started drawing my lines at the bottom and worked my way up, I would be piecing from the top down. (That's just how it works out to get any seams that cross correct, just like in paper-piecing.) The first step was to cut the first and second pieces out of the pattern and iron them on the back side of the appropriate fabrics:

Note that I didn't think to take pictures of each step until I'd done a couple of the pieces, but you'll get the idea. Next you cut around the pattern piece, leaving a seam allowance around each edge. As you'll see, I decided to piece the top of the bottom fabric over the bottom of the top fabric, so I left about 1/8" to 1/4" seam allowance along the top of my pieces and a bit of a wider seam allowance along the bottom. This is because I'll be turning over the top edge of each piece.

The top piece I could leave alone. On the second piece, I needed to turn over the top edge using starch. Places along the edge that had a concave curve needed to have a narrower seam allowance so it would turn nicely along the edge of the freezer paper. I made the pattern with gentle curves so I didn't need to clip any of the curves. Using a paint brush and starch, I would apply starch to the seam allowance and then would turn the edge and iron it dry:

I would put the starch on the edge for about the length of the iron, then turn it over and set the iron on it while I applied starch to the next section of seam allowance. I used to be afraid that the fabric would scorch if I left the iron on it, but I learned from Karen Kay Buckley that that isn't a problem. She leaves the iron sitting on the fabric while she starches all the time. I just always have the image of Lucille Ball scorching a white shirt while she irons on I Love Lucy! But that just isn't the case. I don't know if that was just for comedy, or if irons back then didn't have the temperature controls that we have today, but I have yet to scorch anything. Here's what it looks like as you get to the end:

The next step is to place this piece over the previous piece and glue in place. Caryl uses a light box to position the pieces because you can easily see when the freezer paper pattern pieces butt up against each other. Here are the pieces on the light box, not quite in the right position:

Do you see the light shining through between the bottom two pieces? And here it is in the proper position:

Can you see the difference? Once the next piece was in place, I glued them together with a line of Elmer's school glue along the seam allowance. After gluing, I ironed it so the glue would hold better. Once the piece was glued in place, I took it to the sewing machine and sewed on top of the seam with a narrow zig-zag using invisible thread. I used a gray thread in the bobbin, but even with the top tension reduced to 0 I got a few pokies so I might use invisible thread in the bobbin next time. But you really have to look to see them so it wasn't a big problem.

Once all of the pieces were sewn together (I thought I had a picture of this, but I must have forgotten. But you'll see the entire background in my next installment after I finish the next step), I turned it over and pulled out the freezer paper. The pieces came out easily in most places. But I did run into problems where the pieces were narrow or one of the pieces ended in a point. In those places, I found it impossible to get the paper out. Here is a narrow spot:

Do you see how the seam allowance on the bottom edge of the polka dot fabric is also caught in the seam below it? Well, there's freezer paper in there and there's no way to get it out. I'll have to go back to my class notes to see how Caryl handled these situations, but for now I'm happy to leave this as it is. This is a wallhanging so the paper won't be noticeable. But next time I think I might use C&T's fusible wash-away applique paper instead. I'll feel a little better about leaving that in the final product.

Well, that's all for the background. I hope you found this useful.


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