April 11, 2017

Golden California Wall Hanging

When my grandmother died a couple summers ago, I inherited a lot of her sewing stuff. That's why my bedroom sometimes looks more like a sewing studio than a bedroom. Among the lovely fabrics, threads, buttons, beads, quilting accessories, sewing machine, and cabinet that was passed down, I also got a serger and an embroidery attachment to her Bernina sewing machine. I did not know how to use either, and so I resolved to learn how to use at least one of these tools over each of the subsequent summers until I knew how to use everything. And I was successful! In the summer of 2015, I took a three-day class to learn how to use the serger, and last summer, I pored over the embroidery attachment user manual to try to make sense of the contraption. 

Learning how to use the embroidery attachment was not the most intuitive thing. It doesn't help when the model is from 1999, depends on miniature floppy disks for embroidery pattern storage, and predates most relevant information about machine embroidery available on the internet. But I have literally thousands of spools of fancy embroidery thread in my room that won't be usable forever, so dammit, I need to learn to use these resources while they are available to me!

This wall hanging is my first substantial machine embroidery project. As such, it was a Christmas gift for my parents (thus "M & J") who tend to look past novice efforts of "loving hands at home" and enjoy homemade gifts. While these three pieces are not the very first things I embroidered, one peek at any of these close-ups conveys to any experienced embroiderer that I am still getting my bearings. While it seems machine embroidery should be fairly uncomplicated--just select the pattern, locate the thread colors, load up the fabric with a stabilizer, and #gaspedal until it's time to change threads--the degree of mechanization in this machine is still daunting. I feel like I am overseeing a power plant where I can't intervene until it's too late. Which means preventing fabric puckering is an art I have not yet figured out. 

Embroidery in action!

Another struggle is in the limitation of design options. There are about sixty designs that come into the machine, and I have about five mini floppy disks of designs my grandmother purchased, with the themes of "fruit still life," "magical kingdom," "furry monsters," "pets," "bugs," and "creatures of the rain forest and ocean." I recognize several of the patterns from embroidered bath towels, pillows, and skirts she made for my sister and me, but many of these are not super applicable to the designs I as a young adult might yearn for. I think there's also some software that I can use to design my own patterns (I even brought back my grandmother's computer loaded with Windows 1997 to use), but I haven't figured that out. I guess that's next summer's project.

After I made the first design, I struggled to find other nature-inspired designs that would fit thematically with a three-part wall hanging, but decided that a monarch butterfly and bluebirds could do the part. The wall hanging presents well as one piece because of the predominant use of complimentary shades of blue and orange in the embroidery and surrounding sashing and border.

For the back, I used one of Grandma's old stash fabrics of fireworks. The fabric has the texture and stiffness of cardboard, but it serves well for this function! I quilted in the ditches of the panels for pure functionality, no decorative quilting this time. 

Unlike the first wall hanging I gave to my parents for their 20th anniversary a few years ago, this wall hanging isn't folded and stored in a closet! It's hanging in my parents' bathroom :) So that's cool.

Until next time,

Happy Crafting!!