Okay, quick recap…since this is continued from last week. The foundation fabric was made, a grid was drawn, and the cross hatch quilting was done. Now what? The next step is to measure the quilted square. Remember that in the previous blog, the finished square needed to be 13 ¼-inches. We cut the original background 14-inches square because it would become smaller as we quilted the grid. Now when I measure the square after the quilting process, it did measure smaller – 13 ¾-inches. I’m not going to cut it down to the desired size yet, as the applique process may shrink it a bit more.
At this point, things are proceed as per normal for machine applique. For this Sue, I am going to use raw edge applique. While this process has somewhat fallen out of “vogue” in quilts at the present, I still love this technique. And since my piece is already sandwiched (backing, batting, and top), I can use the raw edge applique as part of the quilting. It will half the time and double its duty. You gotta love that. To begin this process, I flip the pattern over, place it on my light box and re-draw the pattern on the wrong side of the paper, all the while making sure I leave extra margin for the pieces that go under other pieces.
After the pattern is traced on the back side of the pattern paper, I then trace the individual pieces on a bonding agent. I prefer Soft Fuse or Steam-A-Seam Lite for most of my raw-edge applique work. I cut apart the bonding agent, leaving a paper margin around each piece of about ¼-inch. The next step is the to fuse the Soft Fuse (which is what I am using for my April Sue) to the wrong side of the fabric. When I cut the applique pieces out, I will cut on the drawn line, so my pattern pieces will be the accurate size. If I didn’t leave that ¼-inch margin around the initial Soft Fuse pieces, there would be a chance when I cut them out of the fabric, they would be smaller than they needed to be. And while I don’t think this really would have mattered a great deal with this piece (with the exception of the leaves and one or two of Sue’s details), if you’re working with an applique pattern that has lots of small pieces, even an 1/8-inch can cause a big difference, not to mention a huge headache.
Now, using the right side of the pattern as a guide, I fuse the pieces into place.
I will wait until later to fuse the leaves. Those will be the last applique pieces I press into place. I will remind you that at this point, the background is not a smooth piece of fabric. It has already been quilted, so there is a lot of texture. I had to be a little more aggressive with the fusing process to make sure the pieces would stay in position during the applique process.
The next step is to decide what kind of thread you want for the machine applique. Remember the machine applique will serve two functions for this piece. It will hold the applique pieces in place and will serve as part of the quilting. I wanted the cross hatched background quilting to be understated so that it would not overwhelm any part of Sue and her surroundings. I chose a cream-colored, standard 50-weight piecing thread for that. It nearly disappears into the background, which is what I desired. The first applique piece I fused down was the tree (minus the leaves). I wanted the tree quilting to resemble bark as much as possible, so I drew wiggly, irregular lines on its surface with a Frixion pen and decided on Superior Thread’s King Tut’s machine applique thread to work in the details. I used my Janome’s applique foot for the blanket stitch around the applique pieces and used the walking foot to work in the details of the bark. I did use Superior Threads Bottom Line in my bobbin for the entire process — both applique and quilting.
I like Superior Thread’s King Tut line for several reasons. First of all, it’s an extra long-staple cotton thread that is variegated. I don’t like to use variegated thread on my long arm (and the reasons why will be discussed in a later blog), but I like using it in my domestic machines for applique or quilting. The extra-long staple means that it can take some serious abuse without breaking or “linting up” your machine. The variegation serves applique work well, as it can blend into numerous backgrounds, saving the quilter time – you don’t have to keep switching thread colors. But what I like most about this thread is its appearance. It’s a 40-weight, 3-ply thread, meaning it’s a bit heavier in appearance and if you’re adding details that you really want to “pop” on a piece, this thread is a terrific choice. I was introduced to this particular thread at a Sue Nickels workshop. When I returned home, I purchased several spools from the Super Thread website. Since that time, I think I have a spool in every color. It is truly awesome thread.
I also used a variegated King Tut on Sue’s umbrella and raincoat and the puddles, both in the applique work and in the quilting details.
The bark detail in the tree serves as quilting, as does the details in Sue’s umbrella, raincoat, and the raindrops splashing in the puddles.
However, on the leaves, Sue’s hand on the umbrella, and the umbrella shaft, I decided not to use the King Tut 40-weight thread…and here’s why: the size of the pieces. If you look closely at these pieces, you note that they are either the smallest pieces or the thinnest ones. The size of the thread would have completely overwhelmed these applique parts. Remember the smaller the number of the thread, the larger its diameter. The average piecing thread is 50-weight or 60-weight. Hand applique thread is usually 80-weight. King Tut thread is 40-weight, so it’s pretty thick. I wanted the fabric to still be seen and not completely overtaken by the applique thread. Therefore, I used piecing thread for that – Mettler thread in greens and ecru, and Aurifil in black. And while the umbrella shaft and Sue’s hand on it required no additional quilting since those pieces are so small, I did quilt in the veins in the leaves.
Finally, I trimmed the block down to 13 ¼-inches and bound it.
And then I had to think about the embellishments, since that was part of Matthew’s challenge for our guild members.
I used a scrap piece of green fabric and fringed it, to make some grass to hide the tree roots….
And I added some crystals for raindrops.
Overall, I’m really happy with this piece and had a ton of fun making this block. I always wanted to make a Sunbonnet Sue Quilt, and I did just that, even if she’s wearing a rain hat instead of a sunbonnet. I used raw edge applique, which is a technique I love. I had a wonderful time picking out fun fabrics to applique, including the really neat polka-dot fabric I found for Sue’s rain boots — it exactly matched a pair of rain boots I saw at a big box store! I used a technique I hadn’t used in a while (quilt it before you applique it), and my thread choice got to play center stage instead of being relegated to the background.
Wins all the way around in this Quilting with Excellence exercise.
UPDATE ON MY DAUGHTER, MEAGAN:
Meagan underwent surgery on Tuesday, March 27 and it was very, very successful. The surgeons believe that the cancer was contained only in the cervix. They removed her cervix, Fallopian tubes, uterus, pelvic lymph nodes, and 2 cm around all of that to make sure they got clean margins. The ovaries were fine, so they were left where they were. Dr. Kelly is very, very optimistic that we’re looking at a complete recovery here.
What happens now? In two weeks or so we will get the results of her pathology report on the 2 cm of margin removed. If it’s clean, then we’re done. Meg will have to have a Pap Smear every three months for two years and then every six months for five years — if the cancer decides to make a return appearance it will be in her vagina. At the end of five years, if no cancer cells show up, then she will be declared cancer-free. If the margins are not clear, then she will undergo radiation and perhaps chemo.
Either way, her chances of remission/recovery are 95%. We will take that any day of the week.
I cannot emphasize it enough: Get your annual physical and if your insurance won’t pay for yearly Pap Smears, Planned Parenthood offers them for free or at a reduced rate. It was a complete fluke that Meg’s cancer was caught – not by her OB/GYN, but by her PCP. Otherwise her next Pap Smear would have taken place in November 2018.
Love and Stitches,
Sherri and Sam