Meadow Walk, stumble, learn, walk some more

This jacket has been almost 18 months in the making. I started out great…with a wonderful plan of a Queen Ann’s Lace border treatment adorning this AMAZING fit and flair pink tweed spring jacket with eastern bluebirds winging in. I started by using the same approach that had worked for me with my octopus jacket…loading tulle and wash away stabilizer marked with my bird pattern on my longarm and began yarn couching. Things immediately fell apart. These birds are small. Their heads are about the size of a quarter. A yarn couching hopping foot is basically a solid disk 1/2″ wide. You really are doing it by feel, not sight.

Also, I tried to do the wings like I had on my other bird pieces (at the time my parrot and heron), with multiple yarns layered for light and shadow. But these wings are WAY too small. My yarns obliterated the tiny feathers. I stopped and quit until I came up with a better plan…more than a year actually, during which I learned a lot.

Small areas require small yarn. And better visibility. I bought the free motion machine yarn couching feet for my Bernina (both the classic clear disk one and the new couching clips) and Janome machines and started experimenting. My favorite ended being the classic from Bernina. I could see what I was doing and the metal circle was tiny, maybe 3/16″ wide, so not much guesswork. I layered tulle, wash away stabilizer with my pattern, and put them in a cheap hoop. I had great control!

Small details like the eyes were done at the very end with a regular FMQ open toe foot and simple thread embroidery. Even a tiny 4 knot catchlight in the eye. Once all 4 birds were done, they had their tulle cut away and hopped into the bath to rinse off.

they do look like actual dead birds…I know. 🙂

Next, I worked on the jacket. This part was a risk and experiment that turned out well, but only barely. First I freed the liner of the jacket and rolled it up out of the way as far as I could. Then, I loaded muslin on my longarm and draped the coat open on top. The panels of the jacket tails are flat, without darting, making this possible. I basted it and engaged in some torturous Longarm Yoga to trim away the muslin.

I know from lots of disappointing experience that yarn couching can easily warp due to take-up, but I theorized my greenery was not much more than a single line of stitching, and if I didn’t criss cross myself, I was unlikely to make bubbles of warped jacket. So far so good, but I layered on top with wash away both for stability and a place to draw. The greenery went fine…but it was the flower heads that caused issue. As soon as I did one, I saw the density was going to warp and bubble. So, from then on, I pinned a heavy paper tear away stabilizer under each flower head. I knew the liner of the jacket would eventually cover this …so I wasn’t worried. The result is the flowers didn’t distort the coat, but they are a tiny bit stiffer on a jacket than I would normally like on a garment. If I was to do this again, I think doing the flower heads in appliqué just like the birds would be safer, with only a few pieced of greenery to blend the areas together.

Each flower head is done in layers…like all yarn couching is. Background/shadow, mid, and highlight…which in this case is a nice sparkle yarn in a warm white.

a combination of pebbles and stipple looks make up the lacy flower heads

The final steps were to use my domestic and clear thread and put the birds in place. This quilting DOES go through he lining of the jacket. I outline each, and then basically quilt interior details like I would appliqué, to push some areas back and allow others to poof. Finally a, a nice long soak and blocking for the finished coat!

See all the images in my gallery. If you want to learn a LOT more about yarn couching…you are in super luck! Last week, my amazing crew was over for a gruesome 13 hour shoot and we filmed a great class (Yarn Couching: Free Motion to Fine Art). It is in post production now and will be available on DVD and digital streaming (here on my site) in about June. Coincidentally, about the time as a nice article from AQS magazine will hit the stands…which has a few free patterns. Be sure to get on my mailing list if you want a product announcement from me when it is ready to go!

Happy Quilting !

Bethanne

2 comments on “Meadow Walk, stumble, learn, walk some more

  1. Outstanding. I first saw your amazing art at the VA beach aqs quilting convention. That’s when I started following your work. What a talent. Thank you for sharing.

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