Friday, January 11, 2013

Japanese Sister Tree Quilt

I'm fairly certain that's not actually going to be the name of this quilt, but that's what I'm calling it now.  It's one of two art quilts i'm working on now, and finishing the top is my January goal for A Lovely Year of Finishes (hosted by Fiber of All Sorts).

I'm calling it the Japanese Sister Tree Quilt, because it's an offshoot (or sister project) to a quilt my mother is working on based on a picture of a tree she took in Japan.  Her quilt is beautiful and complicated and has an extensive backstory, which someday I will share here (hopefully with finished pictures).  For now, I'll just mention that the background of her quilt is based on a large graphic drawing she did in photoshop (of the aforementioned tree) and then printed out on fabric.  She accidentally printed one of the pieces twice so sent it home with me.  Along with another test print, this extra piece became the foundation for my quilt.

I'd been wanting to try out Libby Lehman's organza applique technique I saw in her video on The Quilt Show.  I quickly sewed up this quilt top (it's about 24 x 24) to use as a canvas for the organza.  I didn't have any tear away stabilizer, so I just fused shapeflex 101 (one of my favorite interfacings) to the whole quilt to add stability for the applique.

Sadly, only after I did that step did I hang up the top and notice that my three small blocks were not evenly spaced under the one large block.  I debated leaving it, but every time I looked at it, it bugged me.  So I ripped off the interfacing (not fun), picked out all the stitching, and fixed it as best as I could.  Unfortunately, the skinny border around the three small blocks is gold apparel fabric, and it completely unraveled when I tried to rip out and re-sew (not sure why it didn't occur to me to back that with interfacing).

After much difficulty, I got it all re-assembled (more or less) and began my planning for the organza.  I decided my first (and most involved layer) would be the tree branches, and then I'd go back in with green and pink for the leaves and cherry blossoms.  I ironed freezer paper onto the whole quilt top, except where my center block, was and sketched my branches, going out from the center block.  I then peeled off the freezer paper, adhered organza to the back of it, and then ironed it back down on the quilt top.

I took this before fixing the three small blocks.

This is a bit different from Libby's technique- she cuts her design out of freezer paper then stitches around it (through the organza), but my little branches were so skinny, I didn't think there'd be enough support to keep it all steady.  Having one large piece of freezer paper adhered down had the added benefit of keeping everything from stretching weirdly.  Incidentally, where there was organza adhered to the freezer paper, it wouldn't stick back to the quilt top (so I used a couple of pins) put there were several large areas where there weren't any branches (so no organza) in which the freezer paper stuck to the quilt top nicely.

I wasn't sure how the whole process would work out, so I started with a tiny section, sewing in a matching thread color over the freezer paper/organza/quilt top along the outline of a couple of branches.  I then tore off the freezer paper, cut away the excess organza, and bobbin quilted using some perle cotton (not sure which number, but it's fairly thick).  The bobbin quilting was quite easy, because I was able to just follow the previous line of stitching.  I love the varied line that comes from not threading the perle cotton through the bobbin tension; in some places it's very knobbly and in others straight and smooth.  It might be terrible if you were trying to go around a soft smooth shape, but I think the inconsistency here contributes a lot to the texture, and makes it look like tree bark.

The only thing I wasn't happy with was the frayed edges of the organza which were still visible.  If I'd couched on something thicker they might have been obscured, but my branches are pretty small and I didn't want a thicker edge.  I'd read that you can use a woodburning tool/soldering iron to cut and seal organza, so I tried that and it worked great!  I'm so thrilled to get rid of those nasty ravely edges.  Unfortunately, I didn't remember to snap a picture, but I'll show one next time. Now onto the million other branches!

I'm linking up with the inspiring art quilt party Off the Wall Friday over at Nina-Marie's.  You guys should check it out!