Finally Stitching the First Applique Block!
After spending the last few days preparing applique shapes for stitching, pressing tiny seam allowances with starch and a big, hot iron, I no longer have fingerprints. I have a deeper appreciation for those who craft masterpiece quilts with thousands of itty bitty applique pieces, and if this quilting thing doesn't pan out, I'm all set to become a gangster. They can dust for prints all they want, but they'll never prove it was me... ;-) I'm working on Applique Block One of Erin Russek's Jingle BOM project, which you can find here.
This is my first attempt at hand applique (as opposed to fusible machine applique), and I'm using the starch-and-press method that Erin demonstrates in her blog tutorials. Her tutorial is fantastic, but it's definitely not as easy as it looks! I'm using Mary Ellen's Best Press in lieu of diluted liquid starch because I went to three different grocery stores near my home and NONE of them carry liquid starch. Plus Mary Ellen's Best Press comes in "aromatherapy" flavors, and the lavender kind smells yummy. So I put the Best Press liquid in an Avent baby bottle, thinking that the markings on the side would be useful if I needed to dilute the starch, the small opening at the top (where the nipple would go) is perfect for dipping the stencil brush, and the airtight cap seals it up nicely between pressing sessions -- you know, when I've gone off to slather my fingertips with burn cream...
It took me a long time to make all of the pieces for this block, and I just did it in batches of 5 or 6 pieces at a time. I will say that the first leaf was the hardest, and it did get easier after making more of them. Erin posted a special tutorial for making the cardinals, but I still don't think I did the face and beak parts correctly.
|Bird Suffers from BBS, Bulky Beak Syndrome!|
Because those pieces were so small, but I still needed a turn-under allowance all the way around, I had a ridiculous amount of fabric bulk and was not able to get the beak as tiny as the pattern specified. I was hoping that I could tighten it up along the edges when I stitched the birds to the background fabric, but that didn't work out, either. I probably should have trimmed away more of the black and red layers beneath the birds' faces, and maybe even slimmed down that turn-under allowance. I think that on the next bird block I will try running a gathering stitch along the turn-under allowance of the beak and see if I can get a smaller seam allowance and flatter finished beak that way. I have to think about this some more; maybe if I figure out how to do the beaks better on a subsequent block I'll be able to come back to this one and redo them.
|Step One: Embroidered Stems|
|Birdie Eyeball: The "Black" Embroidery Floss that Turned Out to be Gray|
I opted to glue baste all of these pieces onto the block background prior to stitching anything down because I noticed that my shapes all finished slightly larger than the pattern pieces, probably because when I traced the shapes and cut them out I cut outside the line instead of inside the line, and then there's that little bit of bulk from the turn of cloth on top of that. So I thought I should make sure everything was going to fit nicely before I started stitching anything in place.
I positioned my fabric background over the paper pattern and used my light box to precisely place each bird and leaf, securing every piece with dots of Roxanne's Glue-Baste-It. I had a fleeting thought during this process: "Gee, this is going nicely! I'm surprised the fabric isn't shifting on the paper pattern more!" I ignored this thought, and when I had finished gluing down all the pieces I discovered that I had been so zealous in my gluing that I had glued the block to the paper pattern! Fortunately, I was able to tear away the pattern and remove the bits of stuck-on paper from the back of my block with a tweezers. I further secured my applique pieces with 1/2" applique pins for added insurance.
|Back View of Applique In Progress|
After all that drama, the actual applique stitch is easy-breezy. Since you can't see the stitches from the right side, here's what it looks like from the back (above photo). I'm not sure how close together the applique stitches are supposed to be, but since I'm using a very fine, 60 weight 2-ply cotton embroidery thread, I thought I should err on the side of stitches too close together rather than risk having the stitches too far apart.
I still haven't make the nine 3/8" diameter berries for this block yet, but I did mark their placement with a faint silver pencil. Looking over the directions, the little stuffed circles might actually not be that bad, since you gather the fabric allowance smoothly around the circle template with a running stitch before setting it with the iron. That means I don't need to stick my fingers under a hot iron to push the fabric edges into place as I'm pressing them!
I can't believe it's noon already. I have so much to do today! Happy Monday, everyone!