by Christine Barnes
How can 2017 be almost over?! Where did all that time go? And why didn’t I get more done? This girl just wants to sew. Well, after the retreat in September, I managed to fit in a project that’s been on my want-to-do list for some time, a collage and surface-stitched bag, similar in concept to the surface-stitched vests I love to make.
So I was off and running with my “Foliage” bag. Don’t ask me why I chose that name—I have no idea. The “ingredients” included Marcia Derse prints, batiks, and—of course—a Kaffe Fassett stripe. (A few other fabrics that made it into the finished bag aren’t shown below.) Notice that the fabrics vary in 1) color, 2) the style of the designs, and 3) the degree of openness or density. Because surface stitching blends patterns and colors, it’s best to err on the side of more contrast rather than less.The collage is created on a foundation of all-cotton muslin and all-cotton osnaburg, a slightly nubby, old-fashioned needlework fabric. (I make sure neither fabric is labeled “wrinkle resistant”—you want your bag to become crinkly.) I prewash the osnaburg because it shrinks so much, but not the muslin or the fabrics for the collage.
Here’s how it works: I cut straight-edge pieces that are not perfectly square or rectangular. (I have yet to do a collage with curved pieces. One of these days.) Trapezoids like the ones shown here are great shapes for collage—they’re a bit quirky, and quirky is good in my book.I add some longer, slender shapes, and a few pieces with “chunks” cut out of them. Here are some of the pieces I started with, separated so you can see the variety in size and shape.I begin to arrange the pieces on the osnaburg/muslin foundation, just to get a feel for how the colors and patterns will look in each other’s company. Keep in mind that nothing is settled at this point. (The brick-and-gray stripe on the left was edited out early on. 🙂I layer the pieces so that some are over and some are under adjoining pieces, with no gaps.I especially like a “spinning” arrangement, where three pieces overlap like this:It’s getting there . . .Just when you think you can’t mess with it another minute (and believe me, that happens), it all comes together. The next step is to use little dots of glue and pins to tack down the pieces at their edges, followed by a zigzag stitch to secure them. The zig-zagging is tedious, but it’s well worth the effort; you don’t want any pieces flopping around.
With everything “nailed down,” I stitch a wavy grid in both directions using variegated thread and eyeballing the spacing between the lines. That’s the beauty of surface stitching—perfection is not required, or even desired. Just have fun with it!A closer look at the stitched grid. After this step, I stitch all over in wavy lines in all directions until it feels like one piece of fabric, then wash, dry, and cut out my bag. Here’s one side of my finished bag, with its “boxed” bottom. (The light was very different, very cool, the day I took these shots.)I chose a back-and-white stripe for the lining to make a strong contrast and a visual connection to the black straps. A narrow strip of the Kaffe Fassett stripe finishes the upper edge and ties the colors together.The other side of the bag. The light was unusually warm the morning I took this shot, so the color isn’t that accurate, but wow, it sure is luminous!Finally, why is it that our unseen work (the bottom of the bag here) is sometimes our favorite part???If you’d like more info about the collage process and construction of my bag, check out my next “Color Connection” newsletter in early January. If you don’t already receive it, you can sign up on the Home page of my website. In the Gallery and Store on my site you can also see my raw-edge, surface-stitched vests and their patterns.
Changing gears, you’ve seen these blocks at various stages, and here’s the finished quilt, titled “Composite Circles, Random Dots.”Sandra did my favorite quilting, wavy vertical lines. I love, love it. Mega thanks, SB!With that I wish you warm and comfy holidays, surrounded by the things that enchant you and the people you love!