Thursday, 30 June 2011

Big new toy

No not a long-arm quilting machine! It's the new car I've been wanting for a while (even though it's silver, rather than the white I'd've preferred).

Yesterday we said farewell to our 5-series wagon (above). We've had it since James was about 6 months old and I'll miss it. I've really enjoyed driving a car that's relatively uncommon; there are only a handful in Adelaide, and it's been lovely to drive, but it's getting old.

James and Eleanor have been looking forward to the changeover, not least because they hadn't been in the X5 yet - Simon and I took turns at test drives rather than muck around with moving carseats. Here they are in their seats, newly installed in our new car, when we went to collect it.

I'm loving driving the much newer car, and getting used to being higher on the road - I felt an irrational need to duck when entering a multi-storey carpark in it for the first time this morning! I'm really looking forward to driving it to the snow in a few weeks and getting full benefit from the additional power.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Tessellating feathers

I was on such a roll after finish quilting the elephants last night, that I made a start on quilting another quilt, which has been sandwiched for a while, but waiting for attention.

I didn't get too far because it was late, and made some minor 'mistakes' (the way the quitling design tessellates is much more complicated than the square blocks I used!). But it's quilting up nicely, and it was very nice to be able to jump straight into the quilting, having already designed the quilting and done the boring sandwiching. Hmm, maybe I can outsource my sandwiching?!

Elephants and feathers

Today I quilted a snuggle quilt I'm making for my sister. It features Valori's elephants, which I also used in my nephew's quilt, because she loves elephants so much.

I decided on the open feather meander which I've used a couple opf times recently; it quilts up beautifully, and quilting on the flannel is a dream.

She's still using the firsy quilt I ever made; a single bed quilt which is now older than I was when I made it in high school, and suffering badly. I traced the shapes for that quilt with a pen and a carboard template and cut the  pieces with scissors! It's got really thick polyester batting, wasn't quilted AT ALL, and was pillowcased rather than bound!

She used it on her single bed for any years, but now likes something for snuggling on the sofa, especially when Edward needs attention late at night, so I'm hoping this will do the job.

I tried to keep the quilting reasonaly light, so it stays snuggly, but I'm not going to leave it completely unquilted the way I did the original; I know a lot more now than I did 18 years ago!

It just needs binding and a label, then she can have it.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Last week Eleanor and I made invitations for her birthday party. I got the idea from a card I received ages ago; the original just had one large butterfly, but I modified it as my butterfly stamp is fairly small.

The first stamp needs to be carefully positioned; half above and half below where the fold will be. We used a rainbow stamp pad.

Then you just cut around the upper half of the butterfly with a craft knife, lay it face-down and carefully fold the back over (leaving the butterfly sticking out, unfolded) and press in half.

I used lightweight card and ran them through the printer with all the party details first.

Border quilting

I never got around to sharing photos of the outer border of this quilt. I mailed it a week ago, and have just finishe writing all the instructions. This shows the outer border, which has scallops and piano-keys. I'm really pleased with how the scallop shapes worked in the corners, and love the snowflakes.

Almost all the quilting (the piano keys, the snowflakes and the scallops, but not the echo line on the scallops) were marked (and all but the snowflke with the Hera marker), and they were all free-motion quilted. I'm getting better at the straight lines, and it's much faster than turning the quilt 180-degrees after every line! I considered trying to use a ruler, but don't think it would work with the curved front of my machine.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Seating arrangements

For my birthday, Simon took me to choose a stool for sewing; something I've been wanting for a long while. It's been on order for over a month, but this weekend I finally was able to collect it. It's higher than my old chair would go, which should put me in a much better position for quilting - it's good for piecing, but I haven't tested it out on quilting yet, and that's where I expect the real benefit; it should save a lot of shoulder ache. It's also good for cutting and other fiddly jobs; we have wooden floor-boards and too long spent standing on them can make my feet sore, so this provides an alternative. The one downside is I have a spare desk-chair floating around the study with nowhere to put it for now!

Eleanor loves it. Here she is fishing with some beaded thread - she was catching pink, stripey fish of course!!!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Bowls and quilting

I've been busily working on a king-size quilt which needs ot be finished tomorrow. The quilting is mostly done, but there's still plenty to go.

I ased a bowl and a Hera marker to mark the 3/4 circles which form the spine for the whimsical feather border (above) and did the same with a slightly larger bowl to mark the scallops in the white outer border (below).

It's all free-motion quilted, and I'm really pleased with the feathers. Individually they're not perfect, but the effect is terrific.

Before the free-motion, I quilted in the ditch all around the borders; it looks a little odd from the back with the feathering going across the line of ditch quilting, but as I was quilting, it really did help stabilise it, and it's not visible from the front.

These feathers took a few evenings to complete; the combined borders are 11in, and take the quilt to 83in square.

This is the biggest quilt I've done on this machine, and probably my biggest ever. It does start to take up a bit much space while I'm working in the centre, but it's not a problem. I'm so glad to have that extra space!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Transitions in AP&Q

My quilt Transitions is in the new issue of Australian Patchwork and Quilting (Vol 20 No 6).

As well as being the 2011 annual, this issue features machine quilting, and Transitions is more about the quilting and the fabrics than the piecing - making the top couldn't be much simpler!

Transitions uses a selection of hand-dyed gradient fabrics by Vicki Welsh. When I received the first selection I bought from her Etsy shop, I laid them all out next to each other for a photo, and as soon as I saw the image, I knew I had to turn it into a quilt. Since then, I've bought many more of Vicki's gradient fabrics, and do the same each time.

In a nice coincidence, this issue just happens to have another quilt made using Vicki's gradients; unusually it contains a review of a US quilt show, and the first quilt pictured is the spectacular "Seasons of the Moon" by Deb Levy. Vicki has collaborated with Deb to sell patterns for these along with the gradients.

The quiting for this started by drawing out the snowflake quliting designs, marking them and stitching them in Superior silver metallic thread - this is the only metallic thread I've found which stitches perfectly in free-motion.

I really love the large snowflake... there are lots of photos of it...

The two smaller snowflakes are the same design as each other, but slightly different sizes; this is the larger of the two:

The difficulty with this quilt (apart from the titanium needle issue I had!) was working out a background filler which would match the snowflakes in density, but not detract from them or the fabrics. To help with this, I first echo-quilted the snowflakes in monofilament.

I eventually McTavished it using a clear monofilament. It works well in person, but in photographs this does still complete with the snowflakes. The variations in colour across the quilt necessitated the monofilament, but unfortunately it does reflect a little in some photos, and the extremitis of the larger flake do get a little lost.

I'd really like to try stitching this snowflake onto a plainer background sometime and achive greater contrast between the snowflake and the fabric and filler.

The photo below shows the two smaller flakes together. I really like the way the one on the left stands out on the centre fabric.

For now, I need to get back to quilting; I have a king-size quilt which needs to be completely finished this long weekend, and there's a long way to go!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Terrain by Kate Spain

I was lucky enough a little while ago to be one of the winners of a bag of strips of Terrain from Kate Spain's own blog, and my jam-packed envelope arrived yesterday. Just look at all this gorgeousness!

I had the most fun possible ironing, discovering and admiring the prints as I went. I'm guessing they must be offcuts from cutting pre-cuts (jelly rolls, layer cakes, charm packs, etc...) because they almost all have pinked (zigzag) edges. How nice that these can be used instead of wasted!

My parcel contained strips of varying widths of over half the 38 prints in the range, including my two absolute favourites; the two on the top of the sizeable pile below:

I can't wait to finish the quilts I have urgent deadlines for and start sewing with these. As I'm working on other quilts I'm busy mulling over design options in my head. Terrain is due out in September (that seems a long time away, though not so far off now that I have some in my hands!) and I'll definitely be buying more. Thank you Kate!

Thursday, 9 June 2011


I spent yesterday evening sandwiching my quilt. Then as I was finishing, I received a comment, asking what size the quilt was. At 60in square, it occurred to me it was a fairly useless size - too big for a lap or a wall, yet too small an the wrong shape for a bed. So this afternoon I went and bought some fabrics. Then I 'unsandwiched' it all, and have been adding a few borders, which will take it to a loely (and huge) 100 x 92in - king size. I admit I'm not exactly looking forward to 'resandwiching' it - especially at its new and improved size!

In the meantime, just look at the contrast between these folded hand dyed fabrics (above; nothing spectaular) and the gorgeous gradients you see when they're opened out. This was my latest purchase from Vicki's Etsy shop.

Next up is a special order with a 80 x 100in gradient piece to use  as a quilt background.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Another star

I've just finshed piecing the quilt top, and am about to sandwich it ready for quilting - after I collect Eleanor from her kindergarten visit and James from his first school excursion (they went on the train to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens). They'll both need a good nap once they've had some afternoon tea, which should eb plenty fo time to sandwich and start quilting. I still haven't settled on a quilting design yet, though I do have a few ideas. It can't be anything too complicated, because I'm running out of time! In the meantime, here's a third star:

This one uses both the turquoise prints with silver highlights, and has a lovely, glittery sheen. I'm thinking of using silver thread to quilt the stars.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Kisses and cuddles

James presented me with this over the weekend.

It translates as: To Mummy thank you for giving me kisses and cuddles. He did it entirely by himself, and thought the 'th' was a 'f'. I was most impressed that a couple of words he wasn't quite sure of, he knew were in one of his reading books, and used that as a reference - very resourceful!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Thank you - and more stars and snowflakes

Thank you for the lovely response to the peeks I posted! I will try to answer the questions individually, but for now I can let you know that this quilt will be one of the projects in Vol. 20 No. 11 of Australian Patchwork & Quilting later this year; you can be sure I'll share when it comes out.  The block I drafted myself (though I'm sure it's not original) after I was inspired by a picture of a quilt shown to me by Adds. Each of the blocks has different colouring, but using a limited palette which ties them together. Below is a different version:

I also thought tonight I'd share one of my mistakes - I do make them! Usually they're not particularly obvious to anyone but me, or I don't think to photograph them at the time, but this evening's was ideal.

You can see in the picture above (with the incorrectly placed piece) a Hera marker. I find it probably better than a wooden seam roller (when used with care) for 'pressing' the seams on foundation-piecing as I go. It's quick to do, holds well, and I don't waste time or electricity going to the ironing board. I also use the Hera marker for marking lines as originally intended (I love it for mitring bindings) - it has become one of my favourite tools, and it's so simple (and relatively cheap)! I have no connections, but I really do recommend getting one of these and giving it a try.

Below is a correctly-pieced segment, for comparison. Luckily I only got one wrong, and it only took a couple of minutes to unpick and resew.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Snowflakes and stars

Here's one of the blocks I've been working on. I'm managing to use two snowflake prints in this quilt; the white background and the cream.

It looks fiddly (though you probably wouldn't guess there are 80 pieces - it surprised me when I added it up!) but it's a 16-in block, so it builds up reasonably quickly.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Welcome back!

I've been a slack blogger lately; and a slack quilter, too. I've had a bit of a break, which I probably needed, but hasn't helped with my many upcoming deadlines. So I'm trying to drag my nose out of books and am getting a bit of piecing done again. Here's just a peek at what I'm working on; foundation piecing as usual:

Each block is different, and I have to carefully lay out the pieces as a guide so I don't mess up. I've got 4 blocks done so far, and have only had to unpick, move and resew a couple of seams where I got the fabrics positioned wrongly.

Tomorrow I'll share a finished block.