Thursday, July 20, 2017

Local Inspiration

When Teri and I found out we would be going global, we knew that running our business would be faced with some new challenges, but we also knew that we would now have a whole new field of inspiration from which to draw. 

I now live in southwestern Germany, and the area is stunningly beautiful! Exploring the local region and all the many things it has to offer has been our primary focus over the last month and a half. We have been to a couple of fests, one castle, and a waterfall. Everywhere we go, I have found some form of inspiration for either embroidery, appliqué or both. In this post, I would like to take you on photo journey of my travels and show you some of the things that have inspired me.

The urn on this armoire would make a stunning appliqué pattern.
Too bad this piece didn't go home with me.

This amazing view is from Castle Hohenzollern

I see appliqué!

The detail on this door is striking.

A painted wall in the castle.

An amazing ceiling in the chapel.

A beautiful stained glass window that would be fun to recreate in fabric.

This reminds me of a papercut pattern.

More lovely stained glass.

I fell in love with this awesome verdigris door.

Even the architecture can be inspiring!

I would love to stitch the pattern on the little sewing box,
but the gnome creeped me out a little.

Since we arrived at the beginning of June, I have been on the GWTD diet. That stands for Gotta Walk the Dogs! It's working pretty well since the beasts below went from a fenced acre to run in to depending on us for their exercise.

Thankfully, just a block from our house are paved trails that meander through orchards, horse farms, and gardens. If that wasn't enough, just a little beyond that is a network of wide trails through the forest. The dogs and I go there just about every morning, and I have been inspired by all the natural beauty I see.

Most of the poppies have bloomed, but I was able to capture this straggler.

These remind me of the Canterbury Bells we have in the states
and would be a lovely wool appliqué project.

A hand-dyed silk ribbon would be great to use to stitch these.

Lots and lots and lots of French knots!

Wildflowers are not the only things we see on our walks—critters of varying kinds can be seen as well. 

This little guy was loving this thistle-like plant!

How kind of this butterfly to pose for me. 

I guess he wasn't finished with his photoshoot! What stitches would you use to make
this "social butterfly"?

Straight stitches for the thistle and appliqué with some French knots for this butterfly.

The snails are pretty big around here!

These sheep remind me of a friend's wool felting project.

A tranquil stitching spot, perhaps?

I have been diligently working on the sample for the Academy of Appliqué, (the catalog will be available August 5th,) so that hasn't left much time to act/stitch on the inspiration I see on a daily basis. Soon my collection of threads and fabric will come into port and make their way to our new, humble abode—maybe then,  I can try to recreate some of the beautiful things I have seen. 

I hope you have enjoyed a little trip to my corner of Germany, and may these pictures inspire you in some way. Have you traveled somewhere that inspired a stitching project? We'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Crazy Quilting by Numbers

As I (Kara) mentioned in last week's post, Welcome to Germany: Quilter's Style, buying fabric to pad my stash before leaving for Germany made up most of the purchases I made in Houston. But as Teri and I were wandering through the booths, we came upon Sew Cherished. What caught our eyes, were not just the beautiful wool and wool projects, but the crazy quilting stitches that were incorporated into many of the patterns. We explored the booth and came across what looked like crazy quilting stitch guides. I was intrigued and asked the shop owner, Dawn, for more information.

The complete set of Crazy Stitches (petite size)

The guides were sheets of sticky, water-soluble paper with about 7-10 different crazy quilt combination stitches printed on each page. You choose which stitch you would like, cut it from the paper, trim it to size, stick it on your seam, and then stitch. I thought they would be interesting to try and bought the petite set. I love crazy quilting and the fun of coming up with all sorts of combination stitches, but I thought these sheets had some potential for a variety of reasons. 

A couple of months ago, I pulled the Crazy Stitch sheets out and put a project together to see if I would like them. I had a bunch of wool suiting samples that someone had given me, so I put together a patchwork wool piece to test the papers out.

A rough layout

The squared-up piece serged and ready for stitching. (On a side note, I am going to really miss my serger!)

Once I had my practice piece together, I needed to pick out my floss colors. I have worked on a crazy quilt project using limited colors, and I have worked on another crazy quilt project with no limits on colors. Surprisingly enough, the project with unlimited colors was much more difficult—too many colors to choose from. Teri and I had just received the full spectrum of Weeks Dye Works, 6-stranded floss, so I knew that I would be choosing my limited color selection from their collection.

All the Weeks Dye Works colors.

My final color selection.

The papers look like this out of the package:

This particular sheet would be great for practicing the basic stitches.

One of the combination stitches.

I counted the number of seams I had in my piece and then went through the sheets and cut out all the stitches and combination stitches that I wanted to use.

The 16 stitches and combinations I picked out

After I had selected my stitches, I decided where I wanted to put my first line of stitching, cut the paper to the right size, peeled the backing paper off and aligned it on my seam. The papers are sticky and if my fabric had been anything other than wool, I think the paper would have stuck better. I used pins to hold the stitch paper in place for the stitch below. For some of the other seam stitches, I lightly dampened the ends once I had the paper in the right place, and the paper stuck to my fabric removing the need for pins. WARNING: don't dampen it so much so that it dissolves!

All ready to stitch!

I started out with a simple stitch and progressed to some of the combination stitches. My needle went through the paper and fabric easily, and I was able to create a neat and consistent stitch.

Sweet little flowers using a blanket stitch, lazy daisies, and French knots

My third and final pass for this combination stitch.

I think the Murphy's law of crazy quilt stitching is that you will always run out of thread right before you finish the seam stitch.

I just couldn't get two more French knots out of this piece of thread.

This product lived up to what I had envisioned as its potential. I still had to decide what stitch to put where and what colors to use, but I didn't have to look through books to pick a combination stitch I liked. I also didn't have to put the brain power into coming up with my own combination stitch, because sometimes I just don't wan't to think too hard. Dawn has done all the thinking for us with these stitch sheets. The paper washed out well, but make sure you soak it long enough to get all the residue out. Also, wait until your piece is completely dry before ironing. I got a little impatient and the ironing didn't do any favors to my stitching

Definitely one of my favorite combinations!

These arrows got a little wonky from my ironing.

I love how the red pops against the tonal wool!

Here are some pros and cons that I discovered with this product:

  • These would be great for crazy quilters just starting out.
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed with combination stitch possibilities, these sheets figure the stitches out for you.
  • If you struggle with consistency in your stitch size and spacing, this will help your muscle memory.
  • Having these to use when you just don't want to think too hard about what stitch to use would be great.
  • You have to get your project wet to wash out the paper, so your fabric, threads, and/or ribbon need to be colorfast.

You can purchase the Crazy Stitches sheets directly from Dawn's site, Sew Cherished, here. Type "Crazy Stitches" in the search bar at the top, and I'm sure if you have any questions about the product, Dawn would be able to answer them. 

This sampler probably won't be finished for a little while, because the Williamsburg Academy of Appliqué sample due date is coming soon. (We can't wait to show you our international flair blocks!) My plan will be to finish the rest of the seam stitches, and then possibly put a few wool appliqué designs from our upcoming wool block of the month on a few of the larger squares. Have you tried any new stitching products lately? If so, please share what they are and why you did or didn't like them. Happy Stitching!

(Through the Needle's Eye received no compensation for this post)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Welcome to Germany: Quilter's Style

The sum total of my stitching choices while I wait
for my sewing room to arrive.
As we told you in our post "Going Global," I (Kara) have moved to Germany! We found out that we would be moving here last October—two days before Teri and I left for Quilt Market in Houston. I waited to tell Teri that it was official until we had arrived at our hotel, and she was sitting down with coffee in hand (wine would have been better, but it was only ten in the morning). She took the news well, and we proceeded to enjoy all the wonder that is Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. I was told so many times in that week, "You had better stock up on fabric, because it is so expensive in Europe." So for that week and up until we left, I took those words as a personal challenge and built up my stash. My stash is currently on a boat, working its way to me, and unfortunately, I don't expect to see it until the beginning of August. I did pack my Academy of Appliqué 2018 block, a crazy quilt project, and an English paper piecing project, but that is all the "quilty" stuff I have.

We have been living in a hotel for about three weeks now, and while stitching on the above projects is fun, I was definitely craving some quilter companionship. Thankfully, the Black Forest Quilt Guild had their monthly meeting the last Friday in June. My new friends—Birgit, Lisa, and Becky (thank you Facebook)—let me know the place and time and off I went to the meeting, driving by myself for the first time.

The guild meeting is held monthly in a community center very near our hotel. I was a bit early, but I was warmly greeted by those who were there. The guild, almost 20 years old, is made up of ID card holders (military and civilian) from the Stuttgart area, as well as residents of the greater Stuttgart area. 

A view of the library table

A beautiful hall to host the guild meeting

The guild began with a little business first, and then a lovely program about traveling with various quilt projects. The speaker brought quite a few handy items—such as bags, tools, patterns for bags, and many tips and tricks. 

The speaker (on the right) sharing some of her quilting travel trips.
Because this is a German/American guild, both languages are represented,
so this presentation was given in English and interpreted in German.

Then some of the members showed their favorite quilt projects for travel. One project that someone brought was a quilt done in the Japanese fabric folding method, atarashii. I had never seen this method before, and it is a bit difficult to find much about it on the web, but it is beautiful and very portable. You can see some tutorials here and here, but you must use Google translate, unless you are fluent in German. I was fascinated by this method and can't wait to give it a try.

I love the color choices!

Demonstrating some of the prep work.

Sharing this method's portability.
Each piece is quilted individually, so there is no need for quilting once
all the pieces are connected.

After the presentation and a break, it was time for Show and Tell. The quilts that members showed varied in size, style, and method, but they were all wonderful. I didn't get pictures of all but here are a few. Note: While the hall was beautiful, the lighting was not the best for taking pictures.

As part of the travel theme, members were asked to bring quilts,
 if they had them, about travel. 

This quilt with mini campers was adorable.

Many of the places visited during this quilter's time in Germany,
are represented in this quilt.

This quilt represents a visit to the northern part of the U.S.

Another gorgeous quilt highlighting places that were visited. 

This beautiful quilt was made from different shirtings.

A T-shirt quilt made for her husband.

This quilt was made for a close friend. Wouldn't you be thrilled to receive this?!

My new friend Birgit and a child's quilt she made.

She cut out and quilted some of the individual
panels to create a memory game.

The green in this quilt started life as a tablecloth.

A sweet child's quilt, lovingly made.

This quilt is stunning in person!!

A patchwork garden

A beautifully done Bonnie Hunter pattern.

This guild does two different block of the month projects each month. Those who want to participate, make the block for that month—either modern or traditional—and then they have a chance to win all the blocks. 

The traditional June BOM.

The modern June BOM.

Someday, when my ship comes in (meaning the boat that is carrying my sewing machine), I will definitely take part in these fun blocks and all the other exciting activities this guild offers. They even let you ask for a block to be made by fellow members, to commemorate a birthday, farewell, or other special event. One lady asked for a birthday block, and passed out materials and guidelines for the block. I will share more on that in another post.

The Black Forest Quilt Guild has been one of the most welcoming guilds that I have been privileged to attend. It proves my theory that quilters are some of the nicest people, no matter where you are in the world. I am looking forward to jumping right in with both feet and a sewing needle! Hopefully you have enjoyed reading about a guild on this side of the world, and if you have a special story about your guild, please let us know!