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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

3D Leaf Tutorial


So, finally, the promised tutorial on how to make the 3-dimensional leaves like the ones on my Quercus quilt. You'll need two fabrics, one for the top of the leaf, one for the back side. In this case I used a cotton already printed with leaves. You can use any other cotton, rayon or light weight silk, just remember that some fabrics will fray along the edges more than others. You'll also need a paper-backed fusible web like Wonder Under or, my favorite, Steam-A-Seam.


Roughly cut out a piece of the fusible web to cover the shape and size of your leaf. Place the fusible side down on the wrong side of your leaf fabric. Press according to the instructions included with the web. Usually that means 4 or 5 seconds with a dry iron.


Now roughly cut out the leaf with the the paper-backed fusible adhered to the back.


Peel the paper off the back of your leaf, if you're using a print like I did. If you are making a free-form leaf out of a non-printed fabric, you'll need to cut out your leaf shape BEFORE peeling off the paper. It's not a big deal if you peel the paper and then cut out the leaf shape, it's just easier with the paper still adhered.



Now place the wrong side of your leaf against the wrong side of your back fabric. Press once again for just a few seconds. You can give it a shot of steam from the iron if you want to be sure it's well adhered just don't overpress. If you do, the texture of the fusible web can actually show through on the right side of the fabrics. The web adheres easily and doesn't need hard pressing.


Once all layers are glued together you can "fussy cut" around the details of the leaf. On a printed fabric I usually err on the side of leaving some background color as opposed to trying to cut every little detail perfectly.



Start stitching the vein details onto your leaf. To lessen having it pushed down into the needle hole, switch over to your straight stitch plate with the single hole. (Just remember to change it back before doing any zigzag stitiching or you'll break a needle!) As a safety precaution, it is best to hold the fabric with an awl or a stilletto to keep your fingers out of harm's way.

Set up your machine up for free-motion stitching. I also like to use a contrasting, rather than matching, thread so the stitching is fully visible. Start stitching in the veins of the leaf. Don't worry about it being perfect and don't try to hold the fabric flat. Lengthen your stitch length to maximize the distortion that will take place as you add more stitiches. Some fabrics will pucker more than others but you can "help" that happen as seen in the following picture.


Okay, so I said to keep your fingers away from the needle by using an awl. If you leaf isn't distorting as much as you would like, though, you can push extra fabric under the needle by scrunching the outer ends toward the middle. Just keep your fingers at a distance from the needle and DO NOT try to watch TV or get distracted by the cat while doing this. Hint: If you engage your needle down option, you can stop sewing at any time and come back to where you were when you're ready to stitch again.


Once you have finished the stitching, hit the leaf with several heavy shots of steam from your iron. Pick it up and crush it in your hand for a few seconds. Set it aside to completely cool. Now your 3D leaf is ready to stitch to whatever you want. Just tack it in 2 or 3 places to lightly hold it in place. Or, just make a whole bunch and toss them into a tableside bowl or basket for friends to pick up and marvel over.


If you make a leaf out of a fabric that wants to ravel alot, you can hold it over a piece of waxed paper and lightly seal the edges with a seam sealant. My favorite brand is Fray Block by June Tailor. Just let the leaf air dry on the waxed paper. You can steam and crush again if needed.
I hope you'll have fun making these. They actually feel like a real leaf in the palm of your hand.
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