Okay, so my first swap was technically the Reddit Gift Exchange… but that was just for supplies. This one is my first real swap of a finished item. The Reddit exchange was so much fun that I decided to look for a swap group for more swapping fun. The trouble is that swap groups can be a bit of a gamble. You never know what quality or skill levels you are going to end up matched with. After some searching around, I found a private group that specifically stated they wanted intermediate to advanced members specifically to avoid some of the issues that come up with open swaps. I signed up immediately!
The group is surprisingly active for one with only 20 or so members, and they seem to be a close knit group even though they are spread out across the country. I joined right after they closed sign ups for the summer-themed mug rug swap, but they were kind enough to offer me a chance to participate anyway since the matches hadn’t been sent out yet. The rules for the swap were just that it had to be around 6×9 to 7×10, use high quality cotton fabric, and have a sunny/beach theme. The swap was done “secret sister” style, so no one knew who had their name and no one could post pictures because it was supposed to be a surprise. The only other rule was that folks should wait to ship until on or after June first so that everyone would get their mug rugs around the same time, and before the official start of summer.
I had an idea in my head of doing a beach scene, and started hunting for a pattern… but, I couldn’t find one! The only pattern I came across that I actually thought about making, was one that was used in the example photos the swap leader gave and I didn’t want to make it because of that. So, in the end, I went out on a limb and just designed my own. This is the first time I have ever designed something entirely on my own, and also the first time I have done hand appliqué. The quilting was also a little new for me, again I came up with my own designs for the quilting and I did it all with the regular presser foot and my appliqué foot. No free motion here, because I didn’t trust myself to have the control to make it look good.
Before I even started planning out the rest of the design, I made a little dresden plate “sun” just to see if it would come out like I wanted. It did, so then I set out to make the rest of the design. I didn’t really sketch the design because I can’t draw to save my life; I just grabbed a manila folder and scissors. I cut out the shapes I had in mind and then colored them with some crayons and colored pencils I had sitting around. After some playing around with placement and tweaking of shapes, I used the shapes I had cut out of the folder as a template to trace the shapes onto freezer paper.
From there it was your usual method of hand-applique… iron freezer paper to back of fabric, glue-stick the edge of the fabric over the edge of the freezer paper, iron, remove paper, stitch carefully just along the very edge to hide the thread. Once I had all the elements stitched in place, I let it sit for a while. I might have been avoiding the quilting. Okay, so, I was avoiding the quilting. The thought of it was a little nerve wracking!
My piecing skills are so much better than my quilting, so I was really worried it would come out horribly. I will let you guys judge (gently) the final result. I think it isn’t too shabby, but there are definitely things that could be better about it. I still wish I had come up with some more things to put on the “beach.” I had considered adding a sand castle, a pail, or shells to fill in some of the empty space, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make any of my ideas look good. I also wish the sand was a little “curvier” where it meets the water, and I had visions of hand embroidering some white caps in the water. Oh well, I think it will be fine.
For those of you that like to see “in progress” photos, the gallery below is for you. You can see how I used the machine to stay stitch the inside of the Dresden blades after I hand appliquéd them, this part was covered up by the center circle. You can also see (or not see) the hand stitching that appliquéd the water and sand to the sky in the background. There is also a photo of the umbrella canopy before I stitched it down. The fabric used for the canopy had huge pink flowers, which I picked up solely because I thought the petals would look nice as an umbrella… this isn’t the sort of print I normally keep in my fabric stash. You can also see the white piece of paper with a 6″ x 9″ cut out that I used to help me position everything throughout, and then finally you can see the almost completed mug rug after trimming it up. I didn’t quilt the umbrella until the very end, because I debated whether or not I should. I am glad I did though, I think it looks much better stitched.