Applique and the Stabilizer Snob


I’ve never really addressed applique on my blog. I’ve stated that I do it — I may have even specified that I use a tight zip-zag — but I’ve never really talked about it or why — which seems a great omission given how often I’m asked about it from other quilters.

Some people fuse and then go directly to quilting. I’ve considered this, especially recently. Applique is tedious and is probably the least creative process I do. However, it gives a very neat finish. Raw edge applique without it can get rather messy over time, and I like the completeness that I get with a secured edge. I’ve used a blanket stitch and a satin stitch, but I prefer a tight zigzag — 1.0 mm length & 2.0 mm width (although I vary the width in tight spaces).

Why use stabilizer? I had someone ask me that recently. Years ago, I started using stabilizer and haven’t really questioned why in a long time. The answer is that it gives a professional finish. Yes, there are many layers of fabric which can stabilize the stitch, but in some areas, only two fabrics of cotton are too flimsy. The stitch will look much better if you use a stabilizer.

For years, I’ve been using tearaway stabilizer from embroidery shops. I had one that was soluble for a while but paper-y like a tearway that I really l liked but eventually couldn’t find anymore. When I was making the raven, I used the scraps of all of my old stabilizer. They were all good — except one. We’ll get to that in a minute.

This, by the way, is the beak on my raven as I showed it in my last post. It wasn’t right.

1st Beak

This picture, although taken when my studio was growing dark for the evening, shows how I changed the colors a little.

2nd Beak

The raven shows up a little better on my design wall. Whenever I lay something on my design wall, I’m tempted to just lay it on black fabric and call it a day. BUT, my intention in making this piece is part of a story — and I had plans to work on the Tower of London.

Final Raven

I drew a stylized version of the towers and hoped that my fabric choices would get me where I wanted to go. I had no idea if it would work — but I took a leap of faith. This shows the two right towers with the brown decorated with the white architectural details. It was almost like frosting a cake. I was careful to use a white print that wouldn’t show the brown behind it. I would usually put the lighter value down first to avoid shadowing, but this design was more structurally sound to have the full brown background with the white fabric carefully cut and laid on top.

Right Tower 1

Then I added the black details.

Right Tower 2

And finally the rusted copper turrets.

Right Tower 3

The left towers were constructed in the same way.

Left Tower 1

With the darker details and turrets added, they make more sense.

Left Tower 2

I put the towers on my design wall — and you can clearly see where the raven will sit. I posted this image to my FB Page and was surprised to find EVERYONE wanted me to finish the piece just like this. It does have a fascinating quality to it — but it isn’t the direction that I was working on. I will certainly consider it for another piece.

Completed Towers

This shows the raven sitting on the design wall with the towers. Again, the black background makes everything look good.

Towers with Raven

This next photo shows the raven and towers once they were appliqued to muslin. Keep in mind that I had run out of my stash of stabilizer. The fabric stores only carried Pellon, and unwilling to take the time to traipse over to an embroidery store, I decided to try it. I use Pellon’s Wonder-Under all the time — how bad could their stabilizer be?

It was AWFUL. It is much thicker than any other stabilizer I’ve ever had, and it often interfered with my ability to move the fabric nimbly under the needle and get the thread where I intended it to go. It is my hope to never have to use it again. So there — I suppose I’m a stabilizer snob.

Applique Before Sky

Certain in the belief that I had nothing in my stash that would do for the sky, I went to the fabric store and picked out a beautiful blue-gray — only to bring it home and find, in the bright natural light of my studio, that the fluorescents of the store had deceived me. The color was more powdery blue than what I wanted. So I searched my stash and found this funky batik. I love its contribution to the story of the piece. It’s a strange choice, but I’m happy with it. This is what the piece now looks like, fully appliqued and ready to be pinned for quilting.

Before Quilting

Next week is Spring Break. I may not be able to begin quilting for a while, but I hope to at least get it pinned tomorrow.

One last thing — Martha Sielman has written a second book in her Art Quilt Portfolio series — People & Portraits. My piece, Celtic Woman, is on page 32. I feel privileged to be included — although I’m not overly happy with the photograph. I’ve always prided myself in taking my own pictures — but I’m missing something in terms of color. The printed picture is not anywhere near as good as what I see on my monitor. I need to start using a white balance card when photographing and re-calibrate my monitor.

I received my complimentary copy a couple of weeks ago. Beyond the thrill of having one of my pieces in publication, it’s a nice compilation of work. Several of my FB friends are included and it’s been fun to read more about their work.


Saying Goodbye


Any quilter worth her salt will covet the places she can find supplies that aren’t available anywhere else. Fiber On A Whim was one of those places. It closed its brick & mortar store yesterday, and Atlanta is sadder today for it. They will still have their online store, but the precious memories of working away in their wet studio downstairs cannot now be replicated.


Books As My 2nd Love


I am an avid reader, and during the summer months, when I have no free time in the studio, I turn to books for comfort. As a child growing up, they were my means of escape, and I probably use them in the same way today. A library card is free, so as far as escapism goes, it is one of the best means available.

While I was sitting at the pool the other day, unable to read because the teenagers from the community had descended en masse and were blaring heavy metal music, I decided to start a list of my favorite books. I generally keep lists of books that other people find interesting as I’m always looking for a good read. I like to think that all books are magical and enchanting, but the sad truth is that there is a lot of bad fiction out there.

Although this list is numbered, I couldn’t begin to prioritize them. Many I’ve read in the last couple of years, but Tess has been on my list since childhood.

1 -The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

2 – Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

3 – The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audry Niffenegger

4 – Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

5 – The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

6 – The Secret History by Donna Tartt

7 – Harry Potter (all of them) by J. K. Rowling

8 – The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien

9 – The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

10 – The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve

11 – The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

12 – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

13 – Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

14 – Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

15 – Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Although all of these will probably not suit everyone’s taste, they represent what I enjoy — and so this may find some other soul looking for a place to rest.

Oh — and by the way — I oftentimes read all of the books that an author has written — although you will find that no author made my list twice (with the exception of the Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings books which — as a series — must all be read). Some authors, in fact, seem to only have one good book in them — others are able to write well many times, but only once greatly.

“One Gorgeous Read”


I haven’t written in a while because I moved — from a small town to a large one. I am still walking through grocery stores with tears in my eyes while I attempt to comprehend all of the choices that I now have available to me. Having spent so many years in a small town, I am still geared to start my endeavors at Wal-Mart — I wonder if that will ever change. I have found that I literally have to leave stores because I am so overwhelmed with everything. I hate to think that they are mini panic attacks, but I’m sure that that is what my doctor would call them. I have a friend that has panic attacks and has to leave the house — I have them & have to return. All the years of being a stay-at-home mom have turned me into something of a hermit.

Which leads me to my other passion: books. I had promised myself that I would confine my blog to quilts, but really my blog is about me — and I am a bibliophile. I also find it difficult, at times, to find a really good read — and it occurred to me that there are others that may have the same issue — so I decided to share.

I just finished The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Stephen King remarks on the back cover that it is “one gorgeous read” — and that it is. It is certainly one of my favorite books. Too adult to share with my tween, but an excellent choice for adults.

This book captured my attention when I was wandering through a Books-A-Million several months ago. It starts in a Cemetery of Forgotten Books and revolves around someone who burns books and those who cherish them — which immediately captured my attention — since I cherish books. It was originally written in Spanish & was translated in ’04 — and although many places have the kinds of names that require your tongue to roll and flutter in your mouth (if you were to say them aloud) — the transition in language is otherwise flawless. The romanticism of the names, I think, added to the charm and magic of the story.

If you like this book, you should also try The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It has that same sense of intrigue and mystery without being a mystery novel. I also recommend The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards and The Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

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