by Dilys A. Fronks
NOTES TO INSTRUCTORS AND SHOP OWNERS
The initial reaction to the garden gate wall hanging is that it looks very complex and therefore beyond the aspirations of most students. But once the workshop is broken down into logical teaching units, the process is easier for the teacher and student to understand and deal with.
There are 2 distinct stages to this project. Stage (I) is to create a watercolour view using fabric squares. The designs and colours of the fabric will be used like jigsaw pieces to do this. Stage (II) is to add a gate and border to give extra interest and a feeling of perspective. This will be sewn by hand using a needle-turn method.
One-day workshops of 5-6 hours are recommended. You can consider all sorts of approaches to teaching classes which suit your ability and experience as a teacher and the teaching space which is available to you. As a prelude to the garden gate project, you may like to run a class to introduce reverse appliqué and the needle-turn method which is detailed in the Beginner's Workshop on page 20. For the Garden Gate, you can run an intensive workshop over 3 consecutive days or give the students space between classes to complete manageable sections.
Garden Gate Project (page 68)
A garden will be created with specific fabrics to a set grid (p 73) to fit the pull-out pattern of the gate. This pattern will be transferred onto the foreground which in turn will be basted onto the garden. A hand needle-turn method will be used to sew the gate onto the garden.
Instructions are given below for use of specific fabrics to a set grid but teachers should also try a free-flowing approach to see which they prefer and which they find easier to teach.
Fabric choice is important to the interest and flow of the picture and so help and advice on fabric should be given before the workshop, with reference to the book.
CHOOSING A SCENE
Teachers should collect samples of garden scenes as seen in photographs, greetings cards, magazine pictures etc. Prepare an enlarged copy of the grid on page 73.
Suggest that the students be inspired for watercolour picture making by looking at photographs, gardening books, magazines, greeting cards, sketches, etc. Choose a picture with good composition, one that is easily broken down into features which can be loosely interpreted.
SELECTING THE FABRICS
Teachers should prepare the following: a completed garden picture made to the set grid on page 73; larger pieces of each of the fabrics which have been used to make the sample garden; the required number of 2-1/2" squares for each fabric laid out in the grid on a design wall; a fat quarter of a large floral fabric for a cutting demonstration; and examples of fabrics which are and are not suitable for watercolouring.
Although the fabric choices have been made in preparation for the workshop, inform the students that the aim of watercolouring is to produce a gentle transition from one fabric to the next. Look at the fabrics which are and are not suitable for picture making, look at the size and scale of the patterns and designs used in the fabric. Medium to large prints work best and add movement whilst small prints can be static. Avoid fabrics which look like plains when viewed from a distance. Check the reverse side of each fabric for a softer effect and lighter tone.
THE DESIGN WALL
Every student must have a design wall. This can be provided as allocated space (e.g., 40" x 45") on a wall covered with fabric which holds the pieces without pinning. Or the students can be encouraged to bring a portable design wall which can be set up at a comfortable height for good visual appraisal.
The design wall is essential for creating a scene. Encourage students to use it initially in a free and spontaneous way, positioning and re-positioning the squares without pinning.
PREPARING THE SQUARES
Teachers should demonstrate using a ruler and rotary cutter to cut the fabric into 2-1/2" strips and then into 2-1/2" squares. Cut up a large floral fabric (page 74) to prepare for a demonstration.
Get the students to cut up all their chosen fabrics for the grid, to give enough squares to "play" with. Suggest that they store them in small plastic trays until they are ready to start.
TESTING THE FABRICS' POTENTIAL
Teachers should remind the students that, although they are working to the set grid designed to fit the pull-out pattern in the book, they need to be familiar with the fabrics they are working with. Reinforce by demonstration that they are to stagger the squares on the design wall for ease of construction and for a gentler transition between fabrics.
Before being restricted to the grid, encourage the students to test and explore the feature fabrics on the design wall (individual patterns, colours, and textures) to get to know how they can use them to the best advantage. Tell them that the rows are constructed vertically rather than horizontally. Encourage them to lay the squares systematically on the design wall, edge to edge without overlapping, so they can be easily moved when the time comes. This time is for getting to know the fabrics through handling and playing with them.
PAINTING THE SCENE
With reference to the grid, the teacher should encourage the students to build up the picture, square by square, fabric by fabric.
Working to the set grid, ask the students to build up their picture with their chosen fabrics. Get them to view it regularly from a distance to assess progress, perhaps using a mirror held over the shoulder to give a feeling of distance, or view it through a reducing glass or the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. Tell them that the aim is to avoid strong edges which stop the eye from flowing freely around the scene and get them to change any fabrics which prevent this.
REVIEWING THE SCENE
Teachers could get the students to look at each other's scenes, to offer constructive criticism and to initiate discussion on why some fabrics work better than others. Use your prepared sample of squares laid out to the set grid on the design wall to show the offset position of the squares, the "up" and "down" position of the rows and the suggested labeling.
Once the students are happy with their creations, get them to check that the squares in each row offset the squares in adjoining rows. They should also check that the squares stagger up and down in sequence, and they can double check by counting the squares. Get them to label the first squares in each row, from left to right, alphabetically and indicate with an arrow whether the row starts in an "up" or "down" position.
SEWING THE SQUARES TOGETHER
Teachers should demonstrate pinning the rows of her sample picture together. Prepare a sewing machine with 1/4" foot and neutral thread to show my quick chain-piecing method and show how to press each row. Prepare another demonstration to show joining the rows together.
The students need to pin the squares together accurately for a 1/4" seam, in vertical rows ready for the machine. With raw edges level and right sides together, encourage them to pin from right to left so the point of the pin will go towards the machine. (Note: left-handers can pin from left to right and machine sew from the bottom of the strip to the top). After pinning a row, it can be placed back in sequence on the design wall, ready for machine sewing. Tell them to sew square to square to make rows using my chain-piecing method and row to row to complete the picture. Press all the seams in the same direction.
SQUARING THE EDGES
Teachers need to demonstrate the placement of the vertical lines on the ruler for trimming away the excess fabric, top and bottom, to give a straight edge which is at right angles to the sides.
Tell the students to cut away the staggered pieces at the top and bottom of each row to straighten the edges. They need to line up the vertical lines on the ruler with the vertical seams to give a top and bottom edge which is at right angles to the vertical seams.
DRAFTING THE PATTERN
Teachers can prepare a demonstration of pattern drafting as shown in the book if they feel they want to include this in the workshop.
Ask the students to prepare the pull-out pattern of the gate ready for use, making sure that there is only one layer of paper apart from a small overlap where the pages meet. Cut away the excess paper all around the pattern so that there is just a 1" margin outside the outer marked line.
TRANSFERRING THE PATTERN
Teachers should prepare a good quality, lightweight black cotton for the gate, making it 1" to 3" larger all around than the marked edge line on the paper pattern. Show students how to find the centre lines and baste them. Have ready a ballpoint pen and dressmaker's carbon paper to demonstrate the procedure for transferring the pattern onto the fabric.
Tell the students to finger-press and baste along the vertical and horizontal centres and to secure the fabric RS up on a flat surface with masking tape. The pattern is then placed centrally on top of the fabric, matching the centre lines of the fabric with those of the pattern. Secure the pattern along one long edge, outside the lines of the pattern, with pins or masking tape.
A good, clear line is essential so get the students to test the carbon paper first and then to slide it colour side down between the fabric and pattern. The 3 layers must be secured together with many pins before a ballpoint pen is used to transfer all the pattern lines onto the fabric. Tell them to use a ruler for straight lines and to take time to transfer the pattern accurately. Tell them to think of the design elements as holes and to tick the middle of each hole as they are marked. These ticks will mark the holes which are to be cut for needle-turning.
OVERLAYING THE DESIGN
Teachers need the black fabric ready-marked with the pattern and a finished garden scene to demonstrate this. You will tape the picture onto a flat surface, pin the centres of each edge and match the basting lines on the black with these pins. The process is easier if 2 people work together.
The vertical rows of the picture must match the vertical pattern lines so get the students to mark the centre of each side of the picture with a pin. The black fabric needs to be folded in half vertically with RS together so that the basted line runs down the fold. The fold must be placed to run vertically from pin to pin and the horizontal basting lines must be centred. Once the black fabric has been opened to lie flat, the outer marked pattern line can be pinned to check that there is 3/4" of picture lying beyond the pinned line all the way around. Show the students how to use their fingernail to draw lines in-the-ditch to check the vertical seams in relation to the marked pattern. The layers need to be pinned together and basted well by sewing down the middle of the wrought-iron lines and 1/4" beyond the outer lines of the pattern.
NEEDLE-TURNING THE EDGES
Teachers may prefer to prepare small samples using lighter fabric to demonstrate the mechanics of the sewing method more clearly to the students. Convex and concave curves and inward and outward points need to be demonstrated.
Help the students see the pattern marked on the black fabric as a series of holes which need to be needle-turned one at a time, to eventually leave the gate superimposed on the background picture. Suggest they start sewing on straight edges to build up their confidence and to work from the larger holes down to the smaller holes.
Once the sewing is complete, the excess picture fabric around the outer edges on the back should be cut away to leave 1/4" seams. The width of the borders can be adjusted at this stage.
ASSEMBLING AND QUILTING THE QUILT
The teacher can show a finished sample to the students to illustrate the basic quilting "in the ditch" on both sides of the wrought iron and around the silhouetted features. Encourage the students to discuss alternative ideas for quilting.
Tell the students to press the finished quilt top carefully from the back and cut batting and backing to measure about 2" larger all round. The layers need to be basted together and quilted by hand or machine. Extra texture can be added, if preferred.
COMPLETING THE QUILT
Demonstrate the preparation of a hanging sleeve and a binding strip. Show the students how to trim away the excess fabric to make all the edges level and the corners square. Cut and sew a hanging sleeve to pin on the back and prepare the binding strip for demonstration.
Get the students to trim away the excess fabric and square off the corners. The best method for hanging is a sleeve on the back of the quilt, and this can be sewn into the binding. Encourage the students to name and label their work and best of all to enjoy their creation!