Friday, December 3, 2010

Learning from Frustration

I feel like I can't sew anymore. 

 Have you ever been there? Well, that is what I thought as I looked at how my Leaf piece was progressing. It was an experimental piece - I was trying some new materials and methods - but, really, I thought it could would be somewhat respectable.

Wrong. Frustration, frustration, frustration.

I have been blogging about this project for a few weeks.

I used a photo of mine to create a sketch.

 That worked well.

Next I gathered fabrics and created the background.

The background is pieced - I did that successfully, I admit. Unfortunately, from a color perspective, I knew the yellow was going to create problems when I added individual leaves, but I thought I could get around that.

Technically, my next step was to shape the trees a bit more and then fuse them to the background. I was using Mistyfuse for this and when I did fuse them (after this photo) it worked well. I also stitched lightly around the edges of the trees with no problem.

Then I began to play with the leaves. I cut them out, with Mistyfuse on the back of each leaf and laid them out on the background.

You can see in this photo that I was appreciating and experimenting with how to address the issue of the less-than-ideal color of the background as I played with arranging my leaves. Note that the applique of the 'slenderized' trees to the background really looks okay.

So, my next step was to applique the leaves to the background. I should mention that I had fused some Pellon to the back of the entire pieced background. I have done this applique process many times before successfully. Not this time!

Yuk!!!! This is what it looked like after I have done the upper portion of leaves.

Here are three major problems as I see it:
  1. The worst is that the background did not provide satisfactory stability. I had thought I was using a fairly heavy weight Pellon that I have used before. Now I am thinking it was a lighter weight then what I have used in the past and I was out of my heavier Pellon.
  2. Also annoying is that you can see towards the bottom of the photo that the Pellon I had fused to the back began to give way and I wound up with a pucker in the background that wasn't there before! I suspect the problem here is because I really steamed the piece trying to smooth out the thickly appliqued leaves and this destroyed the pellon bonding.
  3. When I steamed the whole mess, the seam line of the background piecing shows through on the leaves.
I guess if you are going to make a mess of something, why not do a stellar job of it!

I welcome feedback on what went wrong. Granted that this would not have been the greatest of art works if it had been successfully sewn but it would have been nice if I could have created a technically proficient piece. 

What am I learning from this? Hmmm.
  • I am wondering,  if the results would have been any better if I had not fused the leaves on to the piece. This was the first time I  fused pieces and then did outlined them. Perhaps the lack of give in the upper fabric played a role? I am wondering if fusing with Mistyfuse works well if you are going to quilt over the entire piece - not heavily decorative stitch/outline relatively small fused pieces.
  • Would this have worked better if I had a stiffer support behind the fabric? I am sure at this point that this answer is yes. I am going to put some tear-away stablizer behnd another part of the piece and see what happens. 
  • Then, there are the design issues... I really should have stopped to find a better fabric for the background.  I chose the gold background for the wrong reason. It would have worked in another piece, but not with these leaves. Then I was too caught up in catching the gold of the individual leaves to switch them to a different color. 
  • Also, at the design level, I probably never would have been satisfied with my outlining of the leaves on this piece, even without the lack of stability. It is too heavy for this composition. This is a basic design flaw that goes back again to better color selection in the first place.
What am I going to do now? First, go on vacation in a few days! How convenient is that! Then totally drop working on this for a bit and play with some other projects. Finally go back and experiment on the remnants for better methods.

Thanks for listening everyone! Supportive suggestions are most welcome.


  1. Hi Judy, Since I dye and paint cloth and am in the middle of changing a fabric color myself on a new work, may I suggest painting that gold background color? If you darken it a bit, your leaves would be just fine. Another thing you might consider is leaving the gold background and just make your leaves in darker colors. I think some nice reds and purples would be very nice on this background. I don't have any advice on the Pellon

  2. One more thing...I think your composition is very nice.

  3. Thank you Katherine. That is a really good suggestion that I never would have thought of. I haven't done much with painting - it is something that I want to start playing with this winter. Any suggestions on the best start on type of paints.
    the idea of darker leaves would also have been a great solution - that was pure Irish stubbornness showing threw on following an idea when it was not working out.
    Really thank you for showing me a new way to problem solve when issues arise!

  4. Hi Judy,
    I don't know how to solve your puckering problem as I don't work with a fused interfacing on the back of my fabrics. Usually when I make a large quilt like this, I fused the large background pieces to the non-scrim side of the batting rather than machine piece the background.
    Is it possible to remove the Pellon interfacing from the back of the quilt? Then you could apply it directly to the batting and iron it flat into place.
    Misty Fuse is a great product and shouldn't wrinkle the fabric. My guess is the interfacing is the problem.

  5. Thanks, Laura. I suspect you are correct that the interfacing is contributing. I find the idea of fusing to the batting as quite interesting.