Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wiggling the Middle

She's baaaaaaack . . .

Actually, I'm kind of liking this "Creative Journey." It's forcing me to do a little everyday, and also to really look at what I do and how I do it. Sometimes it's a little frightening when I realize that I'm not so "free and easy" as I thought, (yesterday's post is indicative of that). I guess all of that training I had is so ingrained in me that I don't think of it as being geeky, but as just being how things get done.

I actually have a certification in Apparel Design, and while taking those courses had a wonderful teacher. This woman had been a coutourier in San Francisco during the 50s and 60s. She could make anything from shoes to hats and her class was in hand sewing technique. Her goal was for us to learn all of the rules . . . just so we'd know how to break them!

I break a lot of rules, I'm a bad, bad, girl . . .but sometimes it pays off.

The picture above is a detail shot of a handbag I made for the Robert Kaufmann 2008 Quilt Quest. As you can see it's embellished to the hilt, but what you can't see is the seed beed fringe that went around the edges. I don't think I could have made that handbag if I hadn't learned good technique, and if I hadn't broken a few rules. It won first place and netted me a new sewing machine, (which I desperately needed).

Good technique is something that isn't taught often enough. So many people nowadays are dependent on their sewing machines for both piecing and quilting. I'm all for it, and actually wish I could afford one of those machines that does the quilting that looks like hand sewing, alas, poor me . . .

However, if you are fortunate enough to learn how things should be done from the ground up you know what will and won't work, you'll be less frustrated, have more confidence, and will have a lot fewer "WIPs" that are unfinished due to "technical difficulties."

When I was at university I took a costume course, (it was one of a choice of electives I had to take). I thought I'd ace the class and I did. The shocking thing to me is how many people who wanted to make costume design their career knew nothing about sewing. I was the hero of the costume shop because I knew how to sew in zippers, ( I learned that at 10).

I made an enemy for life when one of the "airy-fairy" designers decided to do floor length medieval dresses out of stretch velour, cut on the bias. I remember standing at the cutting table and blurting out "You can't do that!" The designer looked at me like I was a nutcase but the instructor asked me why not. Well, silly me went into a description of what would happen to those dresses as they were worn and hung on the hangers. I told her that the weight of all that fabric would be bad enough cut on grain, but on the bias she'd have dresses growing a foot a day in length and that they would be so stretched out that she'd be lucky anyone could wear them.

Of course I was ignored, the dresses were made, and they actually were about 6 feet longer by the end of the show run. The actresses hated them! The designer hated me! Then the instructor offered me a spot in his advanced design program! I turned him down, I wanted nothing to do with those folks. Besides that designer kind of freaked me. I was afraid I'd end up with a pair of scissors in my back . . . and that hot glue gun was scary too . . .

I guess the point is that learning technique is a good thing and cutting stretch velour on the bias is a bad thing. (And don't mess with crazy wannabe costume designers!)

Getting back to my butterflies . . .

Yesterday I realized that my mathematical wonder-jig wasn't perfect. Actually, the jig was perfect but the quilt was not, (which may be why it was stashed away and not completed...what else don't I know about that piece???).

Anyway, I wasn't too freaked out about it as I knew I could still make it work, and I did.

I laid the jig in the corner first, lining up the notches to make sure they were at the top edges of the binding and that the butterfly was properly lined up in the corner. I then put the wing pieces inside the butterfly "stencil," used a couple of fingers from one hand to hold them in place until I could lift the jig up so that the wings wouldn't move from their spots. Then I quickly fused them in place.

A quick note about the jig. I suggested that you cut outside the lines when cutting out the wings. It's better if the cut-out section is a little bigger than the actual wing pieces. If the jig is cut too tight, then you won't be able to remove the jig without disturbing the wings.

Next, I'll fuse the center butterfly. The technique is the same except that you want to line up the butterfly in the center of your piece. Now, as I realized yesterday, the squares are not perfect so my center piece is a tad smaller than the 3" I figured for. I do, however, have the 3" square on the jig to work from. So, what I do is center that square on the pieced square. In this case I have a little less than an eighth of an inch on either side. Now after checking the notches to make sure they're lined up at the binding edge, I can drop in my wings, remove the jig and fuse.

Next up is the butterfly in the middle of the two butterflies I already fused. This could drive you crazy if you had to measure everything again but there's no reason to. Although the jig is inaccurate for placing the butterfly if you lined it up to either the center or the corner, there's a way to get around that.

Once again you're going to use the 3" squares at the top of the jig. If you line up the seam with the line between the squares, you've found the center. Then adjust for the binding, pop in your wings, remove the jig, and fuse away.

Now, don't they look even? If you went at them with a ruler you might find a small differential between them but the differences are too small to detect when you look at the overall piece. As long as you are consistent in matching up those "middle" butterflies with that seamline you'll have a consistent look throughout the piece.

I'm going to finish fusing these and will be back tomorrow with some embellishment options.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

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