The temptation to get the COUCHING INSERTS for the BERNINA #72 ruler foot was too tempting this past Black Friday (50% off)! I really had in mind using the smallest of the 3 inserts to do some small projects, but so far I cannot get anything to work but the largest insert. Sigh. I’m sure it’s a matter of finding the right size yarn or cord and do more practice. I hope so anyway. (If you have never heard of “couching” it is where you embroider or sew a heavy thread, cord or yarn using a stitch to secure the material to your fabric. You can do this with a zig-zag on a regular sewing machine. Longarms have foot attachments that allow you to quilt and couch at the same time.)
With bigger yarn (size 4), and this being December, I thought immediately of doing a Santa wall hanging. I figured the yarn would lend itself perfectly to his hat and even his eyebrows, beard and mustache. I did not set out to do anything artistic or well, just throw something together which would allow me to test the insert and see how it looked in case it could be something I could use to future projects.
Being an artist has its advantages, as I was able to draw this very easily. This was the second sketch; I draw the first then trace over it for a cleaner version you see here. To get something symmetrical you only need draw the left or right half, fold your paper in half and trace the half you drew! I use a black sharpie so I can see the drawing easier when tracing to the fabric.
I traced over the white areas directly onto my white fabric, then cut out where the face and mouth (skin tone) would be. I used a smaller pair of scissors for the cutout than you see here; the bigger scissors were for the outside shape. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to iron my fabric but I did right before I glued it. Getting the iron and ironing board out of the closet slows me down, see? And no, I do not have a sewing room or studio, I work in my dining room on the table. And since you were wondering, why yes, have not been able to eat at the dining room table for almost 2 years now!
I then cut out a somewhat rounded shape of a flesh tone fabric and placed it behind the white. I did the same for some red fabric. This will give me a background for my yarn colors since the yarn does not cover perfectly.
I then placed my fabrics and the sheet of tracing paper drawing onto my fabric to determine the size for the background and quilt sandwich. I decided on 15×21″ for a finished size, so I cut the green fabric for the top 17×24″.
I wanted to use my Elmer’s washable school glue stick but it was dried up! I was upset but too lazy to go to the store, so I used some tacky glue very sparingly. I weighted the bottom half of the beard to hold it in place and peeled back the top area and dotted it with the glue to stick it to the flesh tone fabric; I then smoothed it back into place. I then did the lower half the same way. I made sure all the pieces were glued together very lightly. This is why you want to work on top of your drawing so you can keep the pieces in place. Just don’t glue your paper.
The glue dried very quickly so I carefully removed the tracing paper and made sure Santa was centered. I then use a few dots of glue to hold him in place on the green fabric. I let this dry for a couple of hours just to be safe. I changed my mind about the eyebrows and cut them off, he looked like he was frowning (at me?!).
I then assembled my quilt sandwich using one layer of Dream Wool on top of one layer of cotton. Since this was ONLY a quick experiment I very quickly did some FMQ on the background just to have something there–I wasn’t trying for anything fancy or precise because I said to myself, “Beverly, don’t spend time quilting the background nicely because you know if the yarn messes up and ruins it you’ll throw it in the trash and be mad at yourself for having wasted time on the background!” Of course, I could have said, “Beverly, go ahead and quilt this background nicely because if the yarn doesn’t mess up you’re gonna be glad you have a nice background!” Actually, I was just in a hurry to get to the couching part of this experiment. I figured if I liked how this one turned out I could always do another one, and better. I basted the edges of all my fabrics down using 4 stitches per inch.
I quilted his nose and cheeks for some definition (didn’t get the cheeks symmetrical (hard to see with the insert on the foot!). Next, I did the couching on the red yarn going left to right to simulate a knitted cap and overlapping the raw edges of my fabric. It worked out pretty well, but the yarn kept jamming in the insert. I discovered if I gently removed the insert and worked the jammed yarn loose I could put the insert back on and keep going; this prevented me from having to use a lot of bad words (and winding up on Santa’s naughty list). I used a black fabric marker for his eyes, leaving a highlight (an area where the fabric shows thru).
I then did his beard, mustache, and eyebrows in size 4 white yarn, trying to quilt in a logical way to suggest a curly beard and a mustache. I then used Pipsqueak yarn for the white on the hat. I wanted it to be different in appearance and texture from the other white yarn. I’m glad I was using a giant topstitch needle (100/14) or I’m not sure it would have quilted through all the layers of fabric, batting, and yarn. It was noisy going, too.
I should have done this first, but I didn’t, so I did it now, I used Inktense pencils on his eyes and mouth. I just outlined his eyes with the blue and used a red on his mouth, then applied a tiny bit of water to activate the colors. You could use Sharpie permanent markers for this. I thought about buttons for his eyes but he looked weird (ok, psycho!).
And here is the result. Ho Ho Ho, turned out kind of interesting but of course, I see so many ways I would do it differently now, especially a not so hastily quilted background. There are some great videos out there by people who really know what they’re doing with these inserts and couching feet; they make it look easy. You don’t want to see me making a video yet, I make it look frustrating! Maybe with practice, the yarn won’t jam in the insert so much, but right now my feelings are this: it is not fun to try to couch something wondering if at any moment the yarn is going to jam and you’ll have to stop and get it un-jammed. Oh well. Stay tuned, and tell Santa I was very good and did not use bad words, ok?!!
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© Beverly Guhl 2018