Thursday, June 2, 2011

Transformation contest - part 1

I've had a really boring week making new cushions for my couch. I made the first one too tight and had to remake it. So now I don't have enough fabric. On top of that, when I worked out how much fabric I needed, I didn't take the pattern of the fabric into account and it is directional (nap, as seamstresses would say) and so I've had to cut out the cushion covers with a lot of wastage. I hate taking up hems, mending zips and making functional items. I would much rather be sewing little scraps of fabric together!

So, after finishing just one cushion, here's my reward. I've been working on an entry for a contest.

The theme is 'Transformation'. Of course, being a maths teacher, that means geometry to me. Reflection, rotation and translation. When I teach transformations, I always do a lesson where I get the students to draw kowhaiwhai designs and identify the transformations that they have used, perhaps last period on Friday or some time when I don't want to think. They always enjoy it and I get a break! I do love the designs though. In fact, kowhaiwhai designs have been my inspiration for a previous quilt.  See this post on the design of Koru Gecko.

Scribbles in my sketchbook

The size of the contest quilt is only 9 by 12 inches. I thought that the small format made it difficult to make a design out of fabric, even using the method I've used for my recent quilts. The focus has to be on the quilting so I decided that quilting would be the only colour in this quilt. I needed to see how quilting would fit into small spaces so this sketch is full size.

The quilting designs look cool in pencil. Can I do the same thing in thread?

Ok, so some of it needs a bit of work but I think the idea is coming together.

I was testing a couple of things in this sample. Firstly, how densely does it have to be quilted for the colour to look good. Answer, at least a bit more tightly than the white of the design.  Looking at the top black bit, there is one section where I made the strands a little further apart, just to try to fill the space a bit quicker. I think there is too much white showing and it is competing with the design.  The quilting has to be as dense as the pebbles otherwise the white design doesn't pop out. The red coffee beans work because although the coffee beans are big, the white space is broken up with the wiggly line through the coffee bean.

The second thing I wanted to test was a good way to stay in the lines.  Now, it didn't help that I just drew this design freehand with an erasable marker that is just about dead! My first idea was to quilt the lines with a wash-away thread and then quilt with colour up to the lines. I did the red border first.  As you can see, I went over the lines and my design was eaten up by the quilting. Then I tried just marking the line with pen and quilting up to it. A felt pen mark is about 2mm thick and not precise enough for such a small scale quilt.  Also, sometimes I forgot to fill in the line so my white design is bleeding out into the quilted space. Then I did the black border and decide to simplify the design at the same time.  A bit better result. The last part was the main design in black.  This time I went around my felt pen mark carefully with one line of black thread first.  I think that's the way to go. I found it easier to keep the quilting in the space.

So now I need to draw my design properly and think about how to get it on to the fabric. The other problem I foresee is that the finished piece has to be exactly 9"x12" and I have no idea how much the quilting is going to draw it in. I should have measured my sample before I started.  Look at all the lovely maths that would involve!


  1. What sort of thread are you using? A fine 50wt thread is more forgiving as far as backtracking and moving around the design goes - and you don't get that funny pulling/tightening of the fabric that you get with a thicker thread. Looks good though - already looking forward to the finished product!

  2. I'm using a embroidery thread. It doesn't say what weight it is but I think it's 50wt.

    I've done some more experimenting and found that the type of fabric makes a difference. That white fabric is a very fine weave. A softer cotton is easier to quilt. Also, I've tried feed dogs down, feed dogs up and threading the bobbin thread through the eye on the bobbin case. I'll post my findings next post. :)

  3. I love your work! Thank you very much for showing the world. It only goes to show how quilters are truly wonderful people. You work has shown me what I could be capable of doing. JulieB


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