Sew Karen-ly Created...

If you have arrived here via a link (such as to a tutorial) click on "Sew Karen-ly Created" to return to the latest blog post. I invite you to my website to see a gallery of quilts and patterns available for purchase. Shown here is "To Be Where You Belong", presented to Sir Paul McCartney on his visit to Nova Scotia in 2009.
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Thursday, 26 August 2010

Foiled again...

Sometimes when one gets knocked out of orbit, one spends a lot of time staring at the ceiling. If it happens to be one of those old-fashioned tin ceilings there may be inspiration for a quilt in those tiles...
For some time I have been wondering about trying to reproduce the effect of those tin ceilings using tinfoil. There are several obvious obstacles in the process but the best way to see if something works is to actually try it.
The first step is to transfer the design to the foil. I printed out an outline of New York Beauty blocks (my favourites) from EQ7. The widest tinfoil available was 18", intended for BBQ use, so that determined the width of my quilt . I didn't think I would be able to seam the foil together. Over top of my pattern I laid off-white tulle and traced the design onto the tulle using a blue water-soluble marker.

When I laid the tulle on top of the foil, the marks were barely discernible...and proved difficult to see when stitching. Next time I will use a darker marker. (lesson # 1)
The four materials- tulle, foil, wool batt and cotton backing - were layered in the usual way. This brought me to the next stumbling block, as I normally pin baste. Spray basting would certainly be a better method for these materials so I may have to sneeze my way through a session to make this work. (lesson # 2). I ended up pinning along the perimeter using long straight pins.
There were no concerns about how the machine would handle this unusual sandwich. Jeanne told me when I got the Bernina that it would sew anything and she is right. As always. It did take some experimenting to find the right thread, both shade and weight. Fine threads made the holes look too obvious, even with a small needle - more like punched tin. Finally I settled on a thick grey cotton thread, top and bottom. Originally I had intended to place the foil shiny side up but the thread blended better on the dull side so I went with that. (Jackie at Dayle's very kindly fetched a piece of tin foil for me to match the thread colour.) The machine had no issues at all...but I soon discovered some problems working with the foil. The first is that a piece this wide will wrinkle and crinkle as it makes contact with the side of the machine. (lesson # 4: keep it small). Another thing I hadn't considered is that it is impossible to "travel" from one spot to the next over previous stitching lines. As you can see on the right, after more than one pass of the needle the foil will tear. (lesson # 5: plan the quilting carefully before hand. Multiple starts and stops are preferable to travelling).
In the end, I ditched this piece and sandwiched a new, smaller one. I quilted using a simple overall design which required no marking. The smaller piece did not touch the side of the machine, so no crinkles. I left the tulle in place to keep the foil secure.
It wasn't easy to get a picture of the quilted tinfoil, but overall I am rather pleased with the look and happy with what I learned doing this. I will definitely try it again.
Oh...and the needle one uses to quilt tinfoil you ask? Why, a metallic one of course :)


  1. All I can say is "WOW"! and thanks for describing how you arrived at your wonderful end result. Can't wait to see your quilt made with this technique.

  2. Where do you get all your creativity!!! Send some my way. Can't wait to see the finished quilt. Great descriptions & pictures of how you managed it. That sewing machine is quite a "work horse". Lucy

  3. How funny, I love it! Instead of tinfoil, I think I might use Tyvek wrap, and paint with a silver Lumiere paint after quilting. It might be a more forgiving surface when backtracking during the quilting process. I just love the NY Beauty design.