Hand quilting seems to be disappearing in our quilt world. Quilters want to complete their projects faster with machine quilting, (faster but I certainly don't think easier). I've always enjoyed the process of hand quilting and still teach workshops on how to improve the hand quilting stitch.
My many classes led me to design a whole range of stencil compositions manufactured by Quilting Creations that were suitable for large open spaces and would easily accept trapunto. Many of these designs were also published in my garment book, "The Wholecloth Garment Stori".....now out of print.
So....I got to wondering if any of these motifs could be translated into bead work designs. Following my usual procedure, I marked the size of my wall hanging onto lightweight Pellon non-fusible interfacing. Next, my stencil was traced.
I hand basted the interfacing to a piece of National Nonwoven's 100% woolfelt along all the marked lines with white thread. This not only holds the two layers together, it also transfers the design to the right side of the work which I use as my beading guide.
I like to add texture to the background and though it'd be easier to do that BEFORE the beading is added, I often wait until afterwards to get a better feel of the overall work. It's certainly more difficult to work around the beads if the choice is machine stitching.....but I fear that perhaps my first ideas may overpower the finished product.
If you look closely, you can see where I tested the appearance of some machine embroidery. (lower left outside edge) I thought I'd like the look of a simple small fern motif....NOT.
Instead, I chose a single eyelet stitch, varying the size as I scattered them throughout the background, leaving long threads as I traveled from each one.
What a chore! It's took over 8 hours just to stitch all of them.....and probably another 4 hrs. to pull threads to the back and tie them off. I had to do all this in shifts because the thread ends kept getting snarled up in my presser foot.
Often I use hand embroidery stitches to achieve background texture.....that's certainly faster but not quite what I had in mind for this piece.
Once the center section was complete, it was backed with a larger square of Woolfelt. The two sections are fused and beaded together. The outer edge of the backing was also beaded. It was a very tedious journey to hide the thread path since the wool is fairly thin....but worth the trouble I think! This piece was probably the most time consuming bead embellished Woolfelt project I've ever attempted and I can't wait to translate another one of my quilting motifs to bead work.
TIP: Always test your beads for colorfastness when using any fusing methods. Often times the steam of the iron can strip the color or finish from the beads.