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Then the light bulb came on

I traced my drawing, preparing to transfer it to my canvas with transfer paper, when I got an idea! Why not just print my drawing right on my canvas with a digital printer! Why didn’t I think of that in the first place?

Here is the stapling order, which is in the video, in case it goes by too fast, or you want to click on the photo to get a bigger picture.

And here is a photo of the two tucks in the corners that you make when you do a gallery wrap, which means the staples are around the back instead of on the sides. Again, you can click on the photo to make it bigger.

So much easier!

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Forging ahead in the face of uncertainty…Transferring

Moving on…This a quick rundown on transferring a drawing to watercolor paper (or a surface of your choice). The first step is to cut a piece of tracing paper slightly larger than your original drawing, and tape it over the original drawing. I’m using Scotch 3M Safe-Release tape (the white kind you find in art and craft stores) so it won’t disturb the surface of my sketchbook when I remove the tracing paper. There are different kinds of artist tapes, that don’t leave residue, for different surfaces. I use a mechanical pencil to outline the main areas of my drawing onto the tracing paper. I use solid pencil lines to represent areas where I will want to paint a hard edge (like the outer edge of the head), and dotted lines where I will want to paint a soft shaded edge (like a shadow).

Once I have a tracing, I tape my watercolor paper to a firm surface, my work table in this case. I tape it down with Scotch Drafting Tape this time, for a more secure hold. I don’t want it to slip. I tape my tracing in place over the watercolor paper using the Safe-Release. I can keep an eye on the tracing if it starts to move, and so it doesn’t matter as much. To be more secure, you can use the drafting tape instead. I sharpen a hard pencil. I like to use a 2H. If it is too sharp or hard, it will cut the tracing paper. So experiment first for a good balance.

I slip a piece of transfer paper (I use Saral) between the tracing paper and the watercolor paper. You can use homemade graphite paper, if you wish. To make some, take a piece of tracing paper and a 2B pencil (the wide flat ones work best), and cover the paper with graphite. Once you’ve covered it, take a cotton ball with some rubbing alcohol on it, and rub it across the graphite-covered surface to even it. Let it dry and you’ve got your own transfer paper. Carefully trace your drawing with your hard pencil, avoiding leaning too hard on your drawing as you go. Putting an extra piece of paper under the ball or side of your hand is helpful so you don’t make smudge marks through the papers with your hand.

When you’ve transferred all your lines, remove the tape from one corner of your tracing and double check that you’ve gotten all the lines transferred. Once everything looks fine, remove the tape and the graphite paper. Don’t slide it any more than you need to. Lifting it up makes fewer smudges. You will have some smudges anyway.

Take a clean kneaded eraser and press and release the eraser on the watercolor paper, gently lifting the excess graphite off. This is how you get the smudges off, but you also want lighten your lines, if necessary, leaving only faint lines to paint by. Some watercolor colors will lock the graphite lines in place and you won’t be able to erase them. So, it is best to work with the faintest lines with which you can stand to work. Knead your eraser frequently to avoid putting the smudges back onto your paper. Kneading it keeps it “clean” (at some point, it will become too full of graphite and you will need to get a new eraser).

That’s about it. If you are transferring to canvas, you will want to secure your tracing to it with canvas tape (tape for use with canvas), because the others won’t hold. If you have canvas on stretcher bars, you will want to put a book or some other filler under the canvas to keep it rigid while you transfer your lines.

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Stitch-along, Bluebird Quilt Block Part 3, Satin Stitch

Back to the bluebird block…I finished embroidering the raw edges of the branch using the blanket stitch. I experimented with an alternate stitch, but liked the blanket stitch better. For the rest of my raw edges, for the most part, I used a satin stitch. The satin stitch was pretty easy and it looked very nice. Just a rundown on the basic steps first…Poke your threaded needle through your fabric from the wrong/back side to the right/front side of the fabric, just to the inside of your raw edge. I’m using a purple line in my photos to represent the actual edge of your appliqué. (You can click my photos to make them larger.)

On the right/front side of your fabric, poke your needle through to the back of your fabric along your raw edge, and, in one movement, back out to the front of your fabric, just inside the raw edge, and just next to the point where your first stitch emerged.

Pull your stitch gently taut without making it tight enough so that your fabric puckers. You will be repeating these basic steps over and over along your edge to finish your raw edge.

Take your next stitch just under your first stitch as you repeat the same steps.

Keep an even tension on your stitches by pulling your floss gently.

Continue along your raw edge until you have reached the end of the shape you are working on. You will switch colors of embroidery floss depending on the color of your appliqué shapes. Again, I made a little knot in the back when I ended a color or ran out of floss on my needle. Since the block will be quilted, it shouldn’t matter too much.

You will need:
  • Assorted colors of embroidery floss depending on your fabric choices (I used DMC black/310, white, 168, 260, 317, 370, 392, 646, 726, 742, 783, 797, 826, and 842)
  • An embroidery needle (I think mine was a size 10)
  • A hoop (I used a 9 inch wooden hoop for an 11 1/2 square of fabric. If your square is smaller, you might want a smaller hoop.)
Following the edges of each colored shape, follow the basic satin stitch steps to finish each edge.

I took a few random stitches here and there just for effect, like on the bird’s belly and chest.

I added a little white stitch in his eye for a highlight.

His claws are also done in a satin stitch. You can see the blanket stitch along the edges of the branch in this picture too. I tried using a lighter gray on the top of the branch, and a slightly darker gray along the lower edge of the branch. Where the branch got very narrow, I used a satin stitch right over my fabric because I felt it was too thin to hold up on its own.

That is about it for finishing the embellishment on this block. It will be trimmed down and squared off later when I set it into its destination. It’s finished size will be 9 inches, which means it will be trimmed down to about 9 1/2 inches to include seam allowances. I will be careful not to cut through any of my embroidery stitching to make sure it doesn’t come out later. But, we will wait to trim it for now. I am still debating over how I will use the block. We shall see…
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Stitch-along, Bluebird Quilt Block Part 2, Blanket Stitch

Okay, I’m back…We are about to start embellishing the bluebird quilt block with hand embroidery stitches. If you would prefer to use machine stitching, a zig zag or satin stitch along the raw edges of the appliqué will work fine, or you can try out the decorative stitches that might have come with your machine. I’m going to start with a hand-embroidered blanket stitch. Here are the basics of the blanket stitch before we start on the block itself. The first stitch is made by poking your needle through from the back of the fabric to the front of the fabric, along the raw edge you want to finish (shown here with a purple line).

The second stitch is made by taking a stitch from the front to the back of the fabric, just to the side of your first stitch, but inside the raw edge you want to finish. In one movement, poke the needle back out to the front of the fabric, along your raw edge, just next to the first stitch, while holding the embroidery floss from your first stitch down so your needle will be on top of the loop of embroidery floss from the last stitch. (You can click on my pictures to make them larger, for anyone who might not know that already.)

Pull your embroidery floss taut, not too tight to make the fabric pucker, but just enough that the stitch is smooth. It helps to smooth it with your finger as you go. These are the essential steps. You will just keep repeating them along your raw edge.

Poke your needle in and out of your fabric again, coming our on top of the last loop of floss. Keep your stitches an even distance apart. When stitching around a circle, point your needle from the middle centerpoint of the circle outward to make the stitches fan out nicely.

Pull them taut as you go.

Repeat the same stitch.

Pull it taut, and continue all the way around. You will take one little stitch almost in place to lock it down when you reach your starting point again. Then you will carry your floss along the wrong side (back) of the fabric to the next raw edge you want to finish, or you will take a backstitch on the back of the fabric and cut the floss to end it. I make a little knot just to be safe. Since this block will be quilted and it will have batting behind of it, it doesn’t need to lie perfectly flat.

Okay…onto the bluebird block. Once again, you will need a few things:

  • A hoop (I used a 9 inch wooden embroidery hoop, but you may need a smaller one if your square is smaller than mine, which was 11 1/2 inches)
  • Embroidery floss (I used DMC 3777, but you will match your floss to the red of your berries)
  • An embroidery needle (I think I used a size 10)

Put your quilt block in your hoop, keeping the fabric taut, and tighten the screw on the side of the hoop to make it snug. Cut a length of embroidery floss about 20 inches long and separate out two strands of floss from the rest. Thread your needle with the two strands. A needle threader helps, but I just wet the ends with my tongue and cut them at a slant to make threading easier.

Pick a berry and start your blanket stitch as described above. Take a little lock stitch almost in place as you reach your starting point and carry the floss along the back of your fabric to the next berry. Repeat the process, ending and starting a new thread as you run out. I tried to work in clusters so I didn’t have to make my floss travel too far across the back. I used the blanket stitch on all the red berries.

My fabric appliqués lifted for the wear, and so I steam pressed them down again when I was done, following the manufacturer’s instructions for my paper-backed fusible.

Here’s a closeup of my blanket stitch. I found I got a little better at it as I went along. It would probably be possible to use this stitch on most of the raw edges, if you wanted to, but I think I will experiment with another stitch for the next area I do. More later…