2021 Seattle MQG Block of the Month Project: Salsa Medallion
The theme for this month’s prompt is “TEXT MESSAGE”. The idea is to embed a message in your quilt. It can be short and simple, inspirational or informational, subtle or bold.
Step 1: Brainstorm ideas for the message you want to put in the quilt. Think about words, phrases, or mantras that inspire you or messages that you might want the viewer or eventual owner of the quilt to receive. Or, keep it simple and put the label information on the front of the quilt instead of the back (your name? the recipient’s name? year made?).
Step 2: Consider the method and look you want for your message. Just making one or a few words? Pieced letters would be great. Have a LOT of text? Consider fusible applique or embroidery. Going subtle? How about translating your word or phrase into Morse Code or Braille and/or stitching it in a nice thick perle cotton in a color very similar to the fabric color?
Step 3: Practical considerations. Size matters. If you are piecing letters, bigger is easier than smaller. Paper piecing will let you reduce the size more (down to about 2” high). Embroidery or big stitch quilt stitching will let you get even smaller (although these methods will also work for larger borders). So, if you want a narrow border, you need to take that into consideration in selecting a method. No matter what method you use, plan to make your border a bit oversized and trim to the desired final size after it is finished. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did this.
Step 4: What else do you want to put in your border, if anything? If you do only one word (especially if it is short), you may want something else to fill the rest of the border. You can obviously use your text background fabric, but maybe you want to consider making cornerstone blocks for this border or balance the length of the word with a similar length set of pieced blocks. What can I say? The design considerations never stop…
Mild, medium and spicy designations are harder to classify this month, because your perception of mild or spicy will depend on your comfort with the different techniques and the complexity (or simplicity) of the message you select. Here’s the summary table, which will be followed by examples and resources for the various approaches.
|1-2 (short) words||Pieced letters||Lots of words|
|Embroider the text (cross stitch or outline or satin stitch)||Paper pieced letters||Paper piecing lots of small size letters|
|Use big stitch quilting to present your message||Improv pieced letters||Message in Braille, using appliqued dots (or even small yo-yos?)|
|Fusible raw edge applique||Message in Morse Code|
Relief images created by quilting
|Print text directly on fabric||Bias tape applique|
|Message in Braille, using French knots||Emojis|
It’s all about the font…
Once you’ve selected your word or phrase, you’ll need to find a font that works with the rest of your quilt’s style and will translate to piecing or applique (or that someone has already translated for you!). As part of the preparation for our 2020 Quiltcon Charity Quilt, Erica Johnson (@ricaroo.quilts) did a great blog post for our guild on a range of available quilt block fonts and methods. You can find that post, with all its wonderful links at https://seattlemodernquiltguild.com/2019/09/10/text-quiltcon-charity-quilt/
Additional font resources are at the end of this post. Many fonts are protected by copyright, so to avoid any issues, either purchase the font from the designer, or use fonts that are copyright free or in the public domain. A good resource for lots of free fonts for personal use is https://www.dafont.com/ .
Techniques and Examples:
Pieced letters (standard or foundation pieced) make an easy to read message.
Improv letters could add some mild wonkiness to the quilt.
Fusible applique or bias tape applique can be used for any style of lettering, but lend themselves especially well to the curviness of script fonts. If you’ve never done raw edge applique with a fusible backing before, Wendi Gratz of Shiny Happy World has a good basic tutorial for doing letters using this method. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwcaC2dnuLo.
Using a stitch that outlines the letters, whether as embroidery on the blocks or as something added during the quilting, can make the message more subtle, particularly if the thread color is selected to be similar or slightly darker than the fabric you are using. For more pop, use a contrasting color of thread. The thicker the stitch, the easier it will be to see the letters. Using a big stitch quilting stitch is probably the most subtle. If using embroidery stitches, a back stitch, stem stitch, or a chain stitch would all work well. The heavier the thread, the thicker your line will be. If you’ve never embroidered on a quilt block before, here are a couple of blogs with tips and tutorials: https://www.diaryofaquilter.com/hand-embroidery-tips/ , http://fairyfacedesigns.blogspot.com/2013/08/hand-embroidery-tutorial-how-to.html (Sarah includes descriptions of how to use fonts from your computer to create the name/words you want to embroider, as well as how to mark and stitch). Are you intrigued by embellishment techniques? You can also create letters with buttons, sequins, heat transfer, and other techniques. https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2016/05/31/9-ways-to-write-on-fabric
An alternative way to create a word with quilting is to quilt heavily around it, leaving the interior space of the letters unstitched. This is called “relief quilting”. Kitty Wilkins of NightQuilter has a great tutorial. https://nightquilter.com/2015/05/19/relief-quilting-words-in-negative-space-tutorial/. She uses matchstick quilting to make the letters pop. In the sample below, I used free-motion motifs to get the same effect.
You can also print directly on your fabric if you have an inkjet printer. https://thegraphicsfairy.com/how-to-print-on-fabric-easy/ . This is a common way to make quilt labels, but it can definitely be upsized to use in a border.
Morse Code is a way to put a message on your quilt that is likely to be known only to you and anyone you share the secret with. Since Morse Code letters can get long, you may need to keep your message short in order to make it fit.
The Braille alphabet offers another way to hide your message in plain sight (or feel!). The simplest and fastest way to add it is probably as French knots (your message will be very small and very subtle, though). As shown in the mockup below, you can also applique circles in the appropriate configurations to create the letters. Small yo-yo’s would be another fun way to add the circles.
And don’t forget the punctuation! Exclamation points, questions marks, and emoji can all enhance your message.
Cheryl Arkison exclamation point tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFrauAP_9pY
Gailen Runge has written a book on making your own custom emojis
After finishing your message, if you feel like there is too much blank space in your border, consider adding cornerstones or other elements to jazz it up. Two ideas are shown below.
Have fun deciding what message you want to include in your quilt and how you are going to incorporate it.
Don’t forget to post your progress using the hashtag #seamqgsalsabom!
Morse Code Quilts by Sarah Maxwell, 2019. Ideas for using Morse Code to convey messages in quilts. Bottom line: Morse Code letters can be long, so probably best for single words or short messages in the context of a medallion border.
Quilt Talk by Sam Hunter, 2014. Foundation pieced letters, 2” tall and scalable to larger sizes.
Sew Emoji by Gailen Runge, 2018. Mix and match elements to create custom emoticons.
Text It! Quilts and Pillows With Something to Say by Sherri Noel, 2019. Applique approaches featuring raw edge, bias tape and needleturn options. Includes script and block letter font ideas.
Word Play Quilts by Tonya Ricucci, 2010 (hard to find a physical copy, but available from Martingale as an ebook). Gwen Marston-inspired approach to improv pieced letters.
Websites/Blog Posts/More Fonts:
River Birch Threads: Basic embroidery stitches for beginners https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arsj5eJAzZg
Sarah Homfray- 5 Stitches for lettering in hand embroidery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arsj5eJAzZg
Bias tape lettering technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YQ6Xj5NcOs . Sherri Noel demonstrates her technique using commercial fusible bias tape. To make your own fusible bias tape with any fabric, check out this tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl8LDYa925c
Making bias tape (with or without a bias tape maker): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI1-bPIqcXs&t=1s
Braille alphabet representation: https://www.pharmabraille.com/pharmaceutical-braille/the-braille-alphabet/
Morse Code translator: https://morsedecoder.com/
Pinterest Board with large variety of fonts that could be adapted for use on a quilt: https://www.pinterest.ca/peternewson/fonts-piecing-applique-embroidery/
Assortment of blocks with one word (in various fun fonts) by Kristi Lea of QuietPlay: https://payhip.com/quietplay
Ridiculously cute letters in hexies, $10: Etsy link for 1-inch alphabet in hexagons (I suspect you could increase the size of these if you wanted to)
Chunky alphabet (5” high, paper pieced), $8: https://www.elmstreetquilts.com/p/patterns.html
These letters have a nice shape to them, but they are pretty large (5” high).
Pixelated pieced alphabet ($4): Missouri Star Quilt Co pieced alphabet These are big letters, but would work great for initials and/or the year the quilt was made.
We will aim to post the next instructions right before the June meeting. Stay tuned, and happy sewing!