Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Free-Form Machine Applique, the Master Pattern

Line drawing, and a photo of the finished 36"x28" quilt
I taught a class this past weekend on how to do the sort of turned-edge, free-form work that I do.  I realize I didn't do a good job explaining the importance of making a good pattern, AND the extreme importance of using freezer paper and nylon netting for a stablizer in the construction process to keep everything true.

I've made a quilts that were "air layered," that is, each piece was sewn to the next piece with NO backing.  What WAS I thinking?!! I fought with those quilts at every step of the way, they skewed to the right, and to the left.  One side usually ended up longer than the other, they stretched and bagged...in the end they worked, but whew...they drove me crazy.

I've made machine appliqued quilts with a variety of other backings--muslin, iron-on-tear-off Totally Stable Solvy, light-weight Pellon, and French fuse.  All of which were more difficult to work with than my current combination of netting and freezer paper.  I did not explaining this process to the participants in my class well enough.  I don't think they became true believers, and consequently I think they may have more trouble making their quilts than they need to.   So, I'm going to write more about making the pattern and then the construction process--my penance,  I guess.   Here's the first, and really, most important part...making the pattern.

Choose an image for your pictorial quilt

I've talked about copyright issues before, and choosing images with a strong focal point, and lots of value changes.  Those are important, so take a look at those past posts.  I've also talked about how to go from a photo to a line drawing that can be enlarged to the actual pattern size.

Now add to that:
Master pattern on left, marked with arrows and dashes.
  • The enlarged line drawing IS the master pattern--or will be.  Hang it on the wall and study it.  
  • Enlargements sometimes have problems that do not show up in the smaller format--things like leaning buildings, odd shaped foliage, big blank areas.  These things can be corrected on the master pattern with some White-Out and a dark pencil, or even a little cut-and-paste.
When you are pleased with the enlargement:
  • Think about where you will begin.  The middle and work out?  An upper corner?  Generally, I start with the background and work from the top down, but I know quilters who begin with the focal point, the bottom, the middle.  You have to decide.
  • Mark your master pattern...which pieces are going to tuck under, which ones will have a clean, turned edge?  Use a pencil to begin the marking.  This takes time, and you will erase a lot, especially at first.  Don't get discouraged, this somewhat laborious process will make everything go smoother later on.
  • I should say that all my marks are made with permanent, fine-point Sharpies--they don't bleed when they get wet, and they make a nice, dark line.
  • I use either arrows, or a green line, to indicate the edge I want to turn under, and dashed lines to indicate the edge that will remain raw, and slip under the neighboring piece.  The solid line is the cutting line for the PAPER pieces.  NO SEAM ALLOWANCE IS INCLUDED, that is added when templates are attached to the fabric. 
  • I often, though not always use colored pencils to color some or all of my master pattern with the basic color I think will work in one area or another of the quilt.
Don't rush this stage.  The more you think about the master pattern, the more problems you will solve.

As you look at the shapes in your pattern think about how easy/hard it will be to make each piece.  Any shape can be made, but some will be easier than others.

For example, in this cube pattern, piece # 5 has sharp corners.  If the top edge of piece number 6, and the adjoining edge of piece 1--both straight edges,  are turned under where they lay along piece #5, then no sharp point needs to be turned, The point on the left of piece #5 will be formed when #5 is tucked in place under #1 and #6. 

Working these things out in the paper stage really puts it all in your head so that later on, the cutting, and sewing is much easier.

OK.  Enough for now.   Spend time on the pattern, it'll pay off in the long run.

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