Sunday, 30 January 2011

Perils of a titanium needle

I broke a needle while quilting my current quilt, and decided it was time to try one of the Superior titanium topstitch needles I bought a while ago, that are supposed to be really strong and last much longer. I'd only stitched 2.5 inches, when bang!

This was the result! So ok, it didn't break - but it's equally useless!

Unfortunately the real problem is that when it bent, it also broke my free-motion quilting foot:

I'm waiting for the superglue to dry so I can try it again - but I'm loath to use the titanium needles again; I'd rather break several packets of regular needles than a presser-foot! I'll be wasting time (and having to go out against my wishes in the hideous 42C (108F) heat) tomorrow in the hope of getting a new free-motion foot.

Have other people tried these needles? Have you bent or broken one? What would you do if you were me? (I should note, I have some ongoing problems with my machine, and seem to break needles far too often while FMQing, but neither I nor the servicer can identify the cause.)

Sparkly quilting

I really enjoy creating quiltnig designs, but just marking this quilt took much longer than the piecing! I duplicated the segments of the quilting design and cut and stuck them together, then traced them onto the quilt top using a sewline ceramic pencil and my lightbox.

Once these designs were quilted, I proceeded to spend ages dithering over the background quilting pattern - I don't want it to take away from the fancy designs, but it's hard finding something dense enough to match what I've already done, and blend in with all the different colours.


Here's what I stayed up designing and piecing until 4am this morning. Simple piecing to let the fabrics and the quilting steal the show.

Saturday, 29 January 2011


Even the scraps from my new project are pretty - these are the trimmings from straightening the edges of some gorgeous Vicki Welsh gradient hand-dyes...

Friday, 28 January 2011

All set to quilt

I stayed up even later than usual the other night, giving the sewing room a good clear-out and setting up my old sewing machine for James. Typically the only messy piles are evident in the background of these photos, but the room is all neat and tidy otherwise.

He was thrilled to find it the next morning, and we made good progress on his quilt. Note his little helper!

And doesn't he have an inspirational 'view'?!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The littlest quilter

Eleanor was desperate to get in on the quilting action yesterday, so she hopped up on the chair for a quick go while James had a break. I can see her hassling me until she's old enough to make her own, too!

A fundraising success!

Thank you to everyone for participating in the auctions. Between us all, we raised an amazing $99,089 for the Premier's Disaster Relief Fund! And you can still make donations to the appeal here.

The winners of my auctions were Mel (Auction 1, with a winning bid of $180) and Elizabeth (Auction 2, with a winning bid of $300). I have emailed both, and would like Elizabeth to get back to me when she can, please.

For those who missed out, my quilts and patterns are available in my Etsy store and I will contribute $10 to the fund for every quilt sale until the end of February.

James quilting

James did some more work on his quilt today. Simon cam home from work a little earlier than usual, while we were still sewing, and I managed to convince him to take some photos.

He had more confidence at running the sewing machine and guiding the fabric through, and was better at both. We didn't move the sewing machine to the children's table because we had limited time with all the other things we did today. Here he is sitting on the small chair at my side operating the sewing machine with his feet and watching the needle:

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


This quilt was my fourth finish for the year, and unlike the first three, was actually started this year! I blogged the start of it here.

It's made with a Verna honeybun. I cut the fabric strips into 2.5 and 2.5in pieces, then joined them into 37in and 43in lengths - roughly James' and Eleanor's heights. I then used an ivory solid to bring the total length of each to 50in, by adding different amounts to each end. It was a challenge joining such long narrow strips, because when I pressed them, they really wanted to distort.

The quilt is for one of the staff at James and Eleanor's child care, and I've called it Growing, in reference to both James and Eleanor, and the plants depicted on thye fabric.

As well as the honeybun, I also bought a FQ bundle, and a few pieces of yardage from the range. It's most unusual for me to but precuts, and I don't plan to make a habit of it, because they're quite limiting for my style. The border just came form a FQ - width determined by the FQ rather than design, but it works. I had planned to bind it in one of the Verna stripes, but in the end, it really needed this deeper blue. It's not from Verna, but it ties in really well.

I quilted this freehand in a meandering open feather allover, which quilts up beautifully - and quickly. It's the same pattern I decided to use on my current customer quilt, which is also almost done.

I'm really pleased with how this quilt came out, and I hear its new owner is, too.

I've lost the piece of paper where I jotted down the finished dimensions so I could calctulate how many binding strips I needed, but it's about 48 x 62in.

Monday, 24 January 2011

New Quilter

James has been asking for a while to make his own quilt, and this week seems like the right time. He starts school next Wednesday with some half days. I've taken this week and next off work to spend some special time with him. Eleanor is still at childcare on her usual days, which still gives her Tuesdays and Fridays with me - and of course Wednesday is the Australia Day public holiday.

Last week I let James make a few fabric and fancy thread selections, and inspired by Milly's blog post, prepared 8in squares to make a raggy quilt.Today he paired the first lot of front and back fabrics (with a bit of help to get them even), pinned them together, and started sewing. He absolutely loved it, and really focused on the tasks.

Hes known for ages I kept my old sewing machine partly for him to use, but we're actually using my new one, since it's out, and at the moment I'm actually doing some of the sewing with him. While it's on the sewing table, he can't reach the pedal while guiding the fabric through, so we're alternating jobs. So far he prefers making it go to keeping it straight! He's quite good at speed control. It took a quite a while to teach him how to gently hold the fabric to guide it through, without pressing too hard, or pushing it through, but he's improved significantly over a few sessions today.

The rest of the squares are ready for him to do a bit more tomorrow, and I might try placing the machine on their small table so he can have a go at doing it by himself.

Like a true quilter, he already has grand plans - not only a quilt for himself, but also one for Bec (his special toy) and yet another for the rest of his soft toys!

Auctions closing soon - last chance to bid

A final reminder about my quilt auctions to raise funds for the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Appeal.

Auction 1 - Custom tree quilt

Auction 2 - Semi-custom quilt job

Closing midnight - which is in about 6 hours. Don't forget to bid generously!

Quilting job

This afternoon I sandwiched a customer quilt. I ended up deciding to use the same quilting pattern on this as my last quil, the open freeform feathers. I will do some quilting on the appliques in matching colours (I've already done some fo the red flower in the centre) , but the background is all being done in red bottomline. This coordinates will with most of the fabrics, and will help tone-down that white block - though I'll have to quilt very neatly on that one, as the slightest wobble with stick out like a sore thumb (or finger!).

It's about half quilted so far, and the quilting shows well on the plain red block. I'm also quilting closely around all the applique in th same thread. This will help the applique to stand out on the plain black block, where currently it blends into the background.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


I looked in my scrap box yesterday, and decided it was time to whittle it down a bit. It's not big (an old nappy box), and my scraps really are just that, scraps. Anything big enough to get folded is sorted and stored in the cupboards. I need to come up with a design to use some of the other scraps, but the brights are fairly easy to use. I just pulled them all out, and started sewing the small ones together. I started working on 50, and chain-pieced and pressed them.

This photo above was taken over half-way through. I ended up making an extra 3 blocks, and was left with a small, neat pile of bright scraps. I used up all the orange and yellow scraps, so stopped there. I did cut a lot of the scraps to shape, but I didn't use anything that wasn't in the scraps box.

I made 4.5in blocks - an easy size because I have a 4.5in square ruler, whch I used not only to trim them to size, but also as a guide when making them as to where I needed to add pieces to make the block big enough. Each square has 9-16 pieces of fabric. I love the photo below:

I'm not quite sure how I'll make them into blocks. I did a similar thing about 2 years ago when I made Happiness, and used the crazy-pieced squares as the centre of maverick stars. I don't want to do the same again, and am considering either a different star block, or bordering them with solids. The actual block and their size will determine how many I use in the quilt. I suspect I'll have some left over, and will leave them in the scrap box until I have more brights to make enough for the next quilt.

Friday, 21 January 2011


And here is my third finish for the year! Cuggle was made for the wonderful (and very hands-on) director of James and Eleanor's child care centre.

Sharon told me that Jo likes earthy colours, which got me started. Surprisingly I found this challenging to design, and played with a lot of options before finally settling on this layout.

I didn't realise while I was designing it just how many pieces were involved - but I figured it out pretty quickly once I started piecing! It didn't stop there. I then spent ages dithering over a quilting design, and ended up choosing one which required a lot of marking time - as well as making my own stencil! But I'm really pleased with how it came out.

The feather quilting on the red/orange blocks extends into the neighbouring green blocks' backgrounds.

The swirl quilting on the green was all freehand.

Despite the heavy quilting, this quilt is still quite soft, as I used flannel for the backing.

I filled the wide border with feathering on one side of an irregular wavy line, and tucked little freehand plumes of feathers into the small gaps.

I just managed to decide on a name for this quilt in time to get the label on so that James could hand deliver it yesterday, on his last day of child care! It was as well-received as I could hope for, so everyone's happy.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Baby quilt with a difference

My second finish for the year didn't require much more work than the first - just half an hour of quilting and the binding!

My cousin came across the skulls fabric while she was pregnant and  loved it, so I spent a while chasing it down (it's an Alexander henry print from 2004 - I nearly typed 1994! - and pretty scarce now). Then I spent ages playing with designs - and I confess this fabric really challenged me - but ultimately it needed to be simple, because any fancy piecing would be lost the bold fabric design, so it came together pretty quickly.

It's quilted in the ditch around the border and between the blocks, then I marked and FMQed a large swirl in each block, using white thread in the blocks framed with white and black for those framed in black. The swirl design works diagonally across the block from corner to corner, which meant I could quilt it in diagonal strips.

Now here's where I say my piece. I don't actually like this quilt, and I don't really consider it suitable for a baby. But I hope it will make a new mother very happy, and that's important. I really wanted to make her and her baby a quilt, and there's no point making something the recipient won't like. And I do like a challenge!

In the Pink

In the Pink is my first finish for 2011. I got a bit of a headstart, because this and a couple of other quilts really should have been finished before the end fo 2010, if I hadn't been sick. This one was all quilted (and had been for about a month!) and just awaiting binding.

This is a flannel play quilt for a friend's baby girl, featuring a few Valori Wells prints. I'm thinking now that I should have called it the Pink Elephant - oh well, I'll save that for next time I use that fabric!

I just quilted around the flower and the flower's centre, and ditch-quilted either side of the striped border, then FMQed a freehand swirl across the rest of the body of the top.

The outer border has a triple free-hand scallop. I used the squares against the border as markers.

Now I just need to deliver this quilt.