I LOVE talking about blocks, studying blocks, and playing with them in Photoshop... I am always on a quest for great blocks and trying to figure out what makes them so great ... So I started this companion blog that will be devoted to this quest. But also check out my regular blog at http://olderrose.blogspot.com

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tips on Hanky Construction

The lower left section is pretty much set as it is going to be....  The large piece of lace in the center will showcase one of these bluebird motifs in progress.

Today's tip 1:   When shopping in bins of vintage linens don't overlook pieces with no embroidery or pieces with poor embroidery but a nice edge.  You will find these real treasures  doing hanky pieces but also ALL the time in regular CQ... I just cut out the linen section and keep the edges.

Plus these are usually the cheapest pieces..

With the hankies I use them to finish off unfinished edge as well as layered with other laces as well

Today's Tip #2:  Buy things even when you're not quite sure when you'll use them... These circles of crocheted circles have been in my stash for years.

On many of the hankies there were small embroidered motifs (some not anywhere near a corner)  I will cut them out and put them in a circle and they will be perfect for filling an odd spot here and there....plus they're not a point.

Today's Tip #3:  When you are coming to   where several things are going to eventually overlap.... only stitch to about 1-1 1/2" to the end of the patch (trim, lace, etc.)  If you leave the ends loose   you have the option of trying them several ways before finalizing.

At this point I'm not sure which order these pieces will intersect but I'll show this to you when it is finished.

Today's Tip #4:  Even the smallest spots can make a big impression... Since I'm using every opportunity to add more blue to this work, I cut  a circle from that blue silk tie and put this tatted circle over it...

I was out as soon as  it was light to pull the snow off the greenhouse with a special tool with a 12' handle.  It took close to an hour because the tool is so long and awkward and I kept falling back into the snow.   So I am ready for a nice nap with Morris before I assemble the sitting bench..

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hanky Packets

I was snowed in yesterday and it was like finding a whole delicious decadent day to indulge in my greatest love.....stitchery!!!!  So I spent the entire day stitching "packets" of hanky quarters.  Since I wanted lots of extra lace,  each hanky quarter was layered 3-5 deep which made it cumbersome to shift them about for placement.  So I added all the layers to each and stitched them together into "packets".  This allowed me to move them about easily and I was able to trim off the excess fabric of the underneath hankies..

Now they are just laying on the foundation approximately where I want them and I can begin to fine tune the arrangement....add MORE lace and more hankies... I have started on the additional 6 bluebirds.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Can this block be saved?

I started this block in 2010 as part of a challenge on CQI  and there were specific elements it had to adhere to... It had to be a landscape and contain both fans and paisleys... Also it had to be contain a color out of our comfort zone... Well turquoise is so far out of my comfort zone that Nikki Lee had to send me a "turquoise care package". 

I've a lot of time and work invested so far in this block but found  so much that I wasn't happy with that it just went into the WIP basket... But I now want to combine it with my upcoming fanRR

There has been a moon in and out of it.  I liked the lace bridge but it looks like the tree is growing out of it so either the tree or the bridge has to be changed. 
The lower left had several options and was considering a second peacock resting... Both peacocks were to have beaded tails... But now there will be just one peacock with an outrageous elegant tail...

But I do love the peacock theme and the Asian garden.  I also  like the rockwork I have started around the pond.  So when I couldn't sleep last night I got up and starting playing with possibilities for saving this.

There will be an elaborate and very long beaded tail on the peacock on the right and the peacock on the left will be gone.  But I decided that block just had to be rectangle instead of square but that is an easy fix...  Maybe not this long but long enough to handle an outrageous tail...

Then I needed to add a lot more blossoms to my cherry tree.

Now I am liking it more...The bridge still will need a different solution...

If I reduce the snow and do surface stitching on the mountain and the snow it will move both  to the background.  There will be a branch the peacock will be sitting on.. But it will be added after all the pond work is done.

Actually the whole thing would work better it I narrowed the block even more   but that would mean unstitching the tree and moving it... I will have to think about that...  I see this now as a summer project.  But since I want to use incorporate it with my upcoming RR blocks I had to get it out and give it more thought. Now I can go back to bed and sleep... Isn't it funny how sometimes you just can't shut your mind down....  You'll probably see MANY more revisions before I actually get to it...

This theme came about because for a couple weeks we had a rather tame, wandering peacock as a guest....much to my delight.

Monday, January 27, 2014

And where do I REALLY want points?

I am so fortunate to have this vintage table cover with this unique shape so I REALLY want to accentuate the shape of the linen and lace by putting points where marked.

I'm starting in the lower left corner

I'll stack these 4 hankies for the first step

And they will look like this.  The top hanky is very sheer so the hearts show through.  The hanky with the hearts (which are flocked) was a gift Saturday from one of my stitchers. The dark spots are just shadows.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Something besides points...

As I mentioned in the previous post one of my objectives was to not have points all pointing in the same direction....in fact I do not want ALL points which is just what you get with using just hankies...in fact again since hankies are pretty much the same size, you end up with LOTS of similar triangles..... So I am going to include a good many circles, ovals and curves.

I really like the effect of putting a curve behind a point.  I will use both circles and squares to add variety.

I plopped lots of the stuff on the foundation to just get a feel for the color balance.  I had enough red and pink and wanted more blue...which is not a color I usually use.  Before I went to any store, a trip to the barn was in order.

And sure enough, digging in several bins, I found 2 yummy silk ties the right shade, several linens with blue edges or blue lace, blue ribbon and blue rayon seam binding... AND  the bonus was the tea towel with a gorgeous embroidered blue morning glory on it.... I found 3 linens with rounded edges and the scalloped edge on the morning glory piece.  I will put them all to good use...

And just a few extra pinks that may work as well

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Observations on Hanky Harmony

My group of CQ stitchers have been planning for this hanky project since last  fall.  Last month we had a mountain of hankies on the table to sort.  Next Saturday we will begin the "laying of the hankies"  Luckily I have lots of folding tables...enough for one for each person.

I looked at a LOT of hanky quilts and some I liked better than others....aside from the colors themselves.  But the busyness of the hankies made it difficult to pinpoint why I liked some better.  So I outlined the arrangement of the hankies of some quilts and then removed the hankies to see if a pattern emerged....and it did.

The vast majority of hanky quilts had their focal point dead center and all the hankies pointing like arrows to it... I liked this arrangement the least.

I definitely liked the hanky quilts better which had the focal point off center.  It added much more interest to the piece.

There was a wide variety in the number of hankies on a quilt as you can see.  I know I want to incorporate extra lace and opportunities for fancy seams so I will opt for a fewer number of hankies.  Also when the maximum amount of hankies were used they all ended up about the same size.  I liked the ones that had more diversity in the size of the hankies placed.

So when I start to position everything on Saturday I know now that I want my focal point off center AND will keep in mind to add variety to both the size of the hanky showing and the direction of the points...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Applying birds to block (archived post 9/09)

"Archive Post:  There are many techniques and tips in the archives of Olderrose...before the days I was diligent about creating  the tabs... I will transfer some of the older ones to Block Talk!"

Someone  asked how I applique my felt pieces and what I do with the felt edges... That's the neat part...there are NO  edges... The trick is doing a tight chain stitch around the outline. (See robin's nest ) When I embroider I stitch right into that chain stitch and when I cut it out I cut right up to the chain stitch... so there are no raw edges to tuck under... Nothing unravels. This works on other fabrics as well if you back it with fusible TRICOT interfacing.

Then I just put it on my block and stitch around it (catching the chain stitch) with the colors I used for the embroidery. If there is a loose thread or a felt fuzzy, it's easy to catch in a stitch... You can see that this robin is over a seam and some lace. It would have been hard to embroider this robin directly on the block..

I was never very good at applique using other fabrics. I could never get the edges turned under neatly and the whole thing to lie flat. So this technique using the chain stitch is perfect for me for both embroidery and beading. For beading you still outline in the tight chain stitch...The chain stitch outline is the magic element in this technique.

Actually I don't remember seeing this technique done   anywhere. But I may have so I won't claim to have invented it... and   I hope this answers the question and do try it!!!  This is part of "I love my singer" piece!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

So you want to stitch a bird

Perhaps I can help....as it is easier than you think.  There are just a few things to keep in mind....

First the shape of the bird.  I always mark the contour lines and feather patterns.

They will be a guide for a successful bird even if you do it all in the same color with no regard for light or dark areas.

But if you opt for a bird of colors then
you must not only think of the colors but the values... See if you can define the lightest and darkest areas of this bird.

Sometimes it helps if you can copy your bird in black and white...  Then it is very easy to see.

Then you need to gather your threads..  First pick the lightest and darkest shades and then several in between.  These are the threads I pulled for the bluebirds.  Together like this is is easy to see the change in value.

First I put the lightest color stitches in all the areas of lightness I identified. They are irregular and you think they won't show through but they will. I always satin stitch with a single strand...

Then I add the darkest color where it belongs.

Then I just fill in between the light and dark with the between shades.... Usually with one and then working back over it with a couple more shades close in

So if you  put in your lights and darks and follow the contour lines with the between colors.. It works  like magic....

The bluebirds are done on a very lightweight cotton handkerchief backed with fusible tricot interfacing... I also do birds (animals) on a tight weave muslin or on felt...both would also backed with fusible tricot interfacing...  No matter what  material I'm working on the VERY FIRST STEP is to stitch a very tight chain stitch all the way around....always, always , always.

It really defines the edges as I stitch into it as I progress and it makes it very easy to cut out.

If  I have omitted something or am unclear,   I need you to ask questions so I can get it all right...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Being Lavish With Lace - Part 1

    Diane sent me this picture of a block and asked.. 

." I want to do CQJP2014 with pictures of family members as children on  very embellished lace encrusted series of blocks, and it doesn't come easily to me to add chunks of lace in a decent way!  I have made up my first block and added some lace, but I need some guidance on what to do next.  I'm hoping that you would address this on Block Talk."

(In response to a comment... After the block is constructed my FIRST step is adding laces.  For me steps to block construction is basically this order...Sewing patches, adding laces, then trims, seam embellishment and motifs, and finally beads.)

Since lace is a special love of mine I will happily do this.... First a few things to always remember.

1.  Don't be a "LACE SNOB"  Embrace all kinds of laces...old, new. nylon, cotton, hand-made, machine made, ecru, white, colored, large and small.etc...  Love it all..

2. Lace is really your friend....   Lace not only adds interest to a block..  It also adds texture, contrast, depth. and color  among other things...  It can make a problem spot disappear, move the eye around the block and also draw attention to a focal point.

3. Don't be afraid to cut it up...  You will find uses for all the leftover bits...

4.  The main to remember to have a lace encrusted block is very simple....LAYER, LAYER, LAYER...  not just laces but laces, ribbons, and trims....then bead it.

This is the cover for my stitch journal and if you really looked closely I'm sure you will find about 15 different laces...  Rather than a muslin for a foundation for this cover I used a special kind of lace.... filigree.  This piece was a place mat.  It's easy to overlook this kind of lace..

Here is a valance I bought at a thrift store just this week... $1.99.  It is machine made, nothing memorable. I will probably  use the top and bottom and maybe even the duck/geese? but I really bought it just for the filigree.

This was a very long valance and as you can see most of it was this...  This type of lace is easily found and cheap.  It is a work horse. It covers problem areas, works as a base for motifs, and supports areas of layered lace.

I find it invaluable... and using this cheap lace is the first step in overcoming being a lace snob...

The next step is being extravagant in layering all types of lace.

 This is a lovely edging of hand crocheted lace and only needs a good pressing.

This is a good quality  piece of machine made lace..

And this is a poorly made piece of machine lace and you can tell by looking at the material
it is attached to.  None of these three pieces would make a big impact on a block by themselves.... BUT

layer them  and WOW!!  Even Martha Pullen would be proud...   I layer laces  whenever I can and as many laces as I can...  It is a win-win situation because they always enhance each other.

Here is another of example showing the effects of combining not only various kinds of lace, but various shades and hues as well. a fine soft knitted lace, a firm geometric crocheted lace and a beautifully dyed lace edging motif.

I use a lot of trims and ribbons on seams for a couple reasons... the main one is I can add lace to BOTH sides of the ribbon and they don't even have to be matching laces.  If I run a cord or narrow braid down the ribbon I can do a different seam treatment on either side...plus beading.  This may be only a 5" seam but I have added 7+ (counting seam treatments) elements to it and  maybe more.

 So since the cottage blocks are easily at hand I took a few photos for examples on the ways I use lace.  I have a passion for velvet ribbon and love to combine it with lace and beads.

This bunny motif is resting on a background of two entirely different, very cheap, machine made lace.  It provides him with a much better background than just plain fabric.

I have included this photo because I want you to notice the pink scalloped edge just above the ribbon.  It would be great combined with lace.  It is an edging from an infant dress.  I find that infant and toddlers dresses in thrift stores a great source of delicate lace and edgings, not to mention fine prints.
Upper left here is a layered combination of machine lace and a handmade filigree...a nice contrast.  On the right handmade lace is combined with a blue cotton eyelet.

On occasion I have a truly lovely piece if very old lace and I showcase it rather than layer it...and that is the case here.  But I did add the tiny pink picot lace at the bottom.
The trim is covering a cut edge on the lace.. Ribbon, trims and even another lace with an edge will keep cut lace from unraveling..

Notice the scalloped lace under the velvet ribbon here... It provides a foundation for the intricate seam treatment.  Above by the bees is a tiny remnant of hand tatted lace.  I never discard any piece of tatting and find odd spots to use it.
Again this is a precious piece of lace and I used it to cover this patch and used a light seam treatment..
This was a cheap piece of pink cotton lace but a great spot to use that teeny tiny blue lace flowered edging. 

There a few things to note here... The lace on top had been cut up repeatedly and there were no salvageable edges so the velvet ribbon conceals all the ragged edges.  Then I layered a narrow piece of lace seam binding over the ribbon. 

So with the help of photoshop I have added a few photoed pieces to Diane's block...  I moved the sequin motif to the lace doily... Even a section of filigree lace would be nice under that doily.  All the seams need more ribbon and layered laces... AND the round patch at the bottom screams for another round doily and what a perfect base for a ribbon floral motif.

 Before and after

 Hoping this post helps to justify all the accumulation of lace in your stash..