Friday, 28 September 2012

Rainbow explosion

My sewing room looks as though it's been host to a rainbow explosion!

For a while I've been wanting to make a quilt using equilateral (60-degree) triangles. The main thing holding me back is that I didn't just want plain triangles, and as far as I know, my EQ7 design software won't allow me to design triangle-shaped blocks - although it will do a one-patch quilt layout in any 3- or 4-sided shape. Which of course also means it can't then generate templates and so on if I want them. I'm quite capable of most of the maths (some of my high-school maths teachers would be pleased with how much geometry and trigonometry I use - and would probably have been even more pleased had I realised back then how useful I'd find their subject and focussed a little more!) but because it wasn't an option, every time I started playing with designs in EQ, they would never be triangle-based. As a side note, if you ever need to calculate triangle measurements, websites such as this triangle calculator  will do it for you; as long as you know at least 3 details (all 3 side measurements, 1 angle and 2 sides or 2 angles and one side) it will work out the rest for you!

So a couple of weeks ago I sat down with a pencil and started sketching ideas and worked out a few concepts I liked. But when I used EQ to create a layout of plain triangles to give me more accurate final dimensions, I realised my drawings had been out of proportion, despite my best efforts, and instead of needing a 9 x 10 layout, what I needed was 11 x 9! So I printed out the layout, and then pencilled in the piecing within each triangle (I kept it fairly simple) and adapted the design as I went.

I thought I had a ruler for it (which was part of the reason for wanting to make it), but a lot of searching only yielded a right-angle triangle, so I went and bought one - by this stage I was too committed to pull out! My studio is well overdue for a thorough sort and tidy, and I do wonder if I'll find it when I get around to tidying up...

Another of my aims for this quilt was to use larger pieces to make the fabrics a focus (easily achieved, since I was designing by hand!). And I had in mind that I'd actually use a single range of fabric. I have a few stacks I was considering, and was leaning towards some Amy Butler. But then I settled on a name for the quilt - Hide and Seek; it's going to be a little girl's bed quilt. And what could be more perfect for a quilt of that name than Tula Pink fabric, with all the hidden creatures? It didn't take me long to decide to cut into my stash of The Birds and The Bees, and soon I had a few rainbow piles of triangles and associated shapes ready to piece together. Another bonus of this decision, is that I can enter Sara's Tula Pink Sew-along. I've already joined the solid components to the prints to make the complete triangles, and am now laying them out according to my design to get a good balance of colour and prints across the quilt - but only 4 of the 9 rows fit on my sewing table! I think I'll layout and sew them a few at a time, and hope that with a bit of care, I'll be left with a decent selection for the bottom few rows, and won't have to unpick earlier ones and swap them around!

Thursday, 27 September 2012


I have finished quilting this large quilt at last, but don't have a properly flat section of wall large enough (in either direction) to photograph it! I took a few with it draped over our monkey bars late yesterday afternoon (too late really; the sun was almost gone, and was too low to really define the quilting. This one shows the pattern radiating from the centre block quite nicely though:

It's school holidays here, and James and Eleanor are at my parents' and staying for a 
sleepover. I took the quilt with me when I dropped them off in the morning and used one of their walls to photograph it, and tomorrow will post it back to Milly, who has the binding all ready to attach.

I'll wait to share photos of the whole thing until Milly has done the big reveal on her blog. But in the meantime, I have another customer top waiting to be quilted, and the last two evenings I've started piecing a new quilt, which I'll share tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dividing and quilting

And on it goes! I've ended up taking a lot longer over quilting this than planned, but I think the quilt deserves it. The first photo below shows some of the quilting I'm doing between the outer Swoon blocks - dividing the large spaces to a) make them more manageable, b) allow more variety in the quilting and c) make the quilting design more formal and dramatic.

I mark the lines, but theyr'e free-motion quilted. Then I freehand fill the gap beween the lines with a large filigree design. Then I echo the edges of the feathers and fill the gap with McTavishing, and then quilt in the ditch around the next Swoon star. I'd hoped to avoid the ditch quilting, but it's really necssary, and makes a huge improvement. But it all takes time. I've done six of the eight.

Interspersed with this, I'm doing some of the quilting around the centre block. This is similar to what I'm doing around the edges (filigree in the centre) - but with feathers added. I use rulers positioned using certain intersections of the swoon block to mark the lines, and I'm marking the feathers to keep them even - using the rulers as a guide to position. The blue and green block is the quilt centre, and the lines radiate from the centre of it.

Today I drew up a new quilt design, which I'm desperate to whip-up, then wasted ages hunting for my previously unused 60-degree ruler. I eventually found a different (also unused) triangle ruler, and now wonder if I ever had a 60-degree one! I might go and get one tomorrow... This quilt will feature largeish pieces from a single range (when I can choose one; I have several options!) and a single coordinating solid. Quite unusual for me.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

More swooning

I mentioned yesterday about my first feather starting a different shape when it's not next to another feather - here you can see just how different; these are the feathers I drew compared with what I eventually quilted!

I finished all the feathering and have moved on to filling the little arcs and corners at the side of the quilt with McTavishing, to tie in with that in the centres of the feathered circles and inside the circles around the stars in the middle of the Swoon blocks. I start by echoing between 1/8 and 1/4in around the feathers, then fill the remaining space:

There are only a few more of these to go, then it's on to filling the gaps in the middle (partially visible on the left in the photo above). More McTavishing will be involved.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Feathering frenzy

I have been busily quilting feathers around the edge of this customer quilt. I started by using a large platter (with pieces of tape as guides to help with positioning) and curvable ruler to mark the spine and the edge of the feathers where they don't go right up to the edge of the quilt or a change in fabric.

Then I marked 5 or 6 feathers on either side of the spine. I did this partly to see how they would fit in the irregular shapes on the inside of the spine, but mostly because I always find that I shape first feather differently, and when I get back around to it, it leaves the last feather an odd shape. So I don't actully quilt the first few I draw, and start at the third or fourth one.I basically ignore what I've drawn for the first few when I get back to them.

When I do get back to the start, I pause with space for about 5 feathers, and work out exactly how many will fit, and whether I need to adjust the sizes up or down a little to keep them looking fairly consistent (rather than suddenly finding the space remaining means that the last one is horribly skinny or really fat, and stands out like a sore thumb!).

Because I'm quilting double feathers, that means going around the quilt twice for each side of the spine. So far I've done both passes on the outside, and am still doing the first one on the inside - which is why the ones you see on the left are still single.

Once the feathered border is done, there are still some other spaces to fill, but it's getting there.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


For Christmas a few years ago, we got James and Eleanor a Springfree trampoline. They're fantastic, and the safest around, and now I've entered this photo of them on it in the hopes of winning one for my sister and her family. I'd really appreciate it if you would follow this link and vote for our photo! You might need to scroll through a few pages to get to mine; they're shown in order of vote numbers.

Thank you.

Next post will be quilty again, I promise.

A quilt behind Eleanor

I didn't do any quilting tongiht; though I really wanted to. But I did at last finish off all the instructions for the quilt that's hiding behind Eleanor, which desperately needed doing.

Tomorrow night I'll finish marking the border guidelines and start quilting it; I'm really pleased with my idea and can't wait to see how it looks when done.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


While I'm busy quilting more of the same, here's another look at the quilting on my Winter Windows quilt, which will be in the next issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting (v21 n11) in a few weeks.

These are from the back - I'm so glad I used a solid which shows all the texture (and effort!) The photo above shows a single block (plus a bit), while the one below focuses on the motif created by the corners of four blocks.

I tried tracking the time that went into quilting this; I'll have to go back and see if I can find enough notes to add it all up. I wish I'd also checked a stitch count - something which I am doing on the current quilt. I noted my starting point, and as long as I don't sew anything in the middle, just need to remember to check again when I'm done. I think it'll take me just over the 2m mark.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Swooning along

I'm making progress with the quilting. I finished the feathered circles I mentioned in my last post and have quilted a similar design in the stars at the centre of each swoon block; McTavishing inside a centre circle, with feathers filling the points:

It's hard to see the feathering, but basically there's one large and one small plume in each of the eight points.

Then I moved on to the the large, pale points around each star, using lightly different feather design to fill the narrower points (above) and the wider ones (below). For both I'm using the Sewline vanishing marker to roughly mark the central registration lines, but they're all quilted freehand.

I'll go back later and quilt some swirls into the eight dark diamonds, but for now, I've quilted the light sections of 4 of the 9 blocks.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Starting to swoon

Last night I cleared the decks to sandwich a large (95in square) customer quilt:

I've worked out some of the quilting design, and will work out the rest once I see how it's looking. I've started by McTavishing around the stars at the centre of each of the 9 Swoon blocks:

It's already clear how well made this quilt is. It lies amazingly flat for one so large, and the seams are all flat and even. The fact that the seams have been pressed open really seems to help minimise any bulk, too. Even while quilting right at the centre, look how much space I still had to move (allowing for the extra allowance at the edge, there's a full 50 inches of quilt to the right of the needle:

Next I've moved onto these feathered circles. There will be 4 of them. I used a platter and 2 bowls to mark 3 circles (a large one as a guide for where to end the feathers, a small one for the feather spine, and a slightly smaller one for the innermost circle and the interior arcs). The middle of the 3 quilted circles was done by eye - as were all the feathers.

There's still a long way to go, but it's looking good so far (about 6h in).

Bauble quilt

Melody used my Winter Baubles pattern from Australian Patchwork & Quilting Vol 21 No 8 (she's been very quick; it only came out in July!) to make her own version of the quilt, and sent me a photo the other day:

She says she didn't think she could do it the way I did, and I think she's appliqued hers. Isn't it lovely? Thank you so much for sharing it Melody!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Giraffe Quilt

The giraffe quilt was gifted to its new owner today, so I can share the whole thing. I hope the recipient was as pleased as my customer. I'm really proud of this one.

The initial brief was for one of  my trees, but with giraffes.

I decided that the tree needed to be more in keeping with a giraffe's environment, and had fun drawing out this new tree. The way to do the patches of leaves came to me very early on, and I enjoyed picking out the different green fabrics, drawing the organic shapes and adding the darker and lighter patches.

I wasn't too sure how I'd manage the giraffes, but I'm delighted with them.

I had a few goes at drawing them freehand, but gave up and did an image search for giraffes. It took me ages to find photos of the postures I had in mind (you'd think the upright one would've been easy, but most of them were facing the wrong way, had too much of their bodies obscured, or otherwise didn't meet my needs). In the end for that one I used two separate images; one for the body, and another for the head (the image for the body had the giraffe turned facing the camera, rather than naturally forwards). I saved copies of the photos, used photoshop to define the edges, plonked the new head in place, and printed them to size. Then I traced the rough outlines and a couple of major details, made some alterations, then marked them on fusible web, using separate pieces for the tails and manes.

The pale wood fabric was an inspired choice for their bodies, even if I do say so myself! The bodies, tails and manes (like the tree and leaves) are appliqued using machine buttonhole stitch.

Then I fused a chocolate hand dye to Lite Steam-a-Seam2 and cut out loads of randomly-shaped pieces (well over 200) in varying sizes. Positioning them was like doing a puzzle, and quite enjoyable.

They're appliqued using free-motion straight stitch; I went around each shape twice, but that was still infinitely faster than using the buttonhole stitch again around all those small pieces, and I think it has a better effect. The hooves are appliqued the same way.

 appliqued some of the small edge patches using a paler (but heavier) thread, to make them less prominent, and used a few different threads to add some lines and shading (mostly to the faces) with thread painting. This was all prior to quilting, though I did quilt over some of the lines later on as well.

I was especially please with the giraffe's face above; helped along by the (partly fortunate) positioning of the fabric, with a knot accentuating the eye, the lighter patch at the forehead, and the contours working with the face shape.

After the tree and giraffes were done, we decided to add some grasses to the background. I drew a handful of these freehand on fusible web, then fused them randomly to a small selection of suitably grassy fabrics, cut them out, and played with combinations and positions until I found something I liked. They're appliqued (and then quilted) freemotion. I'd intended to add some more subtle grassy tussocks in the quilting, but found it wasn't overly effective after a couple, and left it at that.

When it came to quilting the ground, I had no clear idea of what to do until I started, when the larger-than-usual McTavishing came to mind. The lines are about 1/2in apart, to match the planned density over the rest of the quilt. It gives a nice subtle grassy texture.

For the sky I chose the swirly pattern I've been using a lot recently. The more I practice it, the more even I get, and it works nicely to create the illusion of a breeze

The border fabric was a chance selection; browsing through my stash, I saw I'd have enough of it, and it was the right sort of colour, so I laid it out with the completed centre, and it was just right. I filled the border with free-form feathers. For these I worked otu where I wanted each spine, and quilted that first, then just went along and freehand quilted the feathers along each side, filling the gaps as I went. I didn't see any point doing anything fancier, as it would have been lost in the print.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


This is a large (48 x 54in) beach scene quilt which was commissioned through my Etsy store. It has arrived safely in it's US home, so now I can share it.

The wider than usual size enabled me to use a really nice gradation of sky fabrics. It was surprisingly hard to select them though, despite the many, many sky prints I have - it's amazing how accurate the blues need to be; I had to discount most because they were too purply, not purply enough, too grey, too greenish... After quilting some extra flame-like rays radiating from the sun, I quilted the sky in the same cloud-inspired pattern I used on my last beach scene quilt.

Another thing I did to manage the larger size was to make the reef deeper; it's much more solid along the bottom than the others I've made.

I also tried to space out the fish swimming in more open water.

A good way to help tie the reef together is by echoing certain elements (e.g. a specific type of seaweed, coral or fish). Here I found the same fish in three different fabrics. Using identical fish from the same print would have been less effective, although using several from the same print can work well if they're coloured or positioned differently - the variation makes it appear more natural.

First I had to find a good spot to position this extra large one (above) - it's a good 6in long, from a print which is on a much larger scale than I usually use (and in fact, rather suprised me when I received it, as I'd ordered it online and not looked too closely at the sizing!). I lost some of it in the seam allowance at the bottom, but it doesn't show badly. The other two fit in more easily.

It helps that they have such different backgrounds; while the large one is in plain water, the one above is in a watery background with creatures like dolphins which blend easily, and the one below is in the coral.

The photo below shows how quilting can be used to improve the way the pieces blend together, as well as highlight shapes and details.

I use a variegated trilobal polyester thread (Superior Rainbows) in shades of green, pink, yellow and purple for quilting the whole reef section; it sounds odd, but it blends and highlights nicely.

This half-hidden fish was appliqued in place, to disguise an area where the water fabrics didn't blend togetehr as well as I'd hoped when I joined several foundation sections together - a handy little trick!

The owner requested lots of bright beach umbrellas. I decided these would be far too fiddly to piece and applique, so I found a couple of prints in my stash which worked. Unfortunately most prints with beach umbrellas have them so overlapped there are no complete ones!

One I did use had the umbrellas clustered around some white chairs - but there was water in the background, and I had to cut away all the background from behind them before appliqueing them to the sand. There's a tiny bit left between the slats of the chair backs if you look really closely!

I love using the footprints fabric above, and was pleased to find another recently which also has smaller footprints (above the umbrellas). This quilt was also the first time I'd added the birds at the water's edge. I quilted closely around each bird to help them stand out.

Each time I make one of these quilts it gets easier, and it's not just the increased fabric selection (though it continues to grow). Even though I had the extra space to fill on this one, I find I'm getting better at blending the fabrics when they need it and creating asmoother, more cohesive quilt.

Quilter's quandry

I'm participating the the Fab Little Quilt Swap, and as usual, I let my partner's likes mull around in my head for a few weeks without giving them much thought. Then every few days I'd have a browse through her favourites and re-read her likes, but was still not really trying and think of a design. Another week or so later, I sat down and jotted down some notes, and my design sketch developed itself into this (accompanied by lots of notes and amendments):

I then couldn't help myself and jumped straight into making it. It's wholecloth, and because it's black, I've used charcoal batting.

As is usually the case, the design evolved as I made the quilt. For example, the second ring of feathering was scrapped, because it would have been too broken up by the tree branches, and I decided to use a swirl filler ( a small version of my current favourite!) instead of the meandering feather for both filler rings. The inner feathers and swirls are Auriful 50wt Cotton mako, the blue meandering feather is Guterman 50wt cotton, and the corner feathers are Bottomline (because that was the thread I had in the right colour).

The basic tree shape hasn't changed (though it took a long time to draft!). I used Superior Glitter, a silver holographic thread.

I'm especially pleased with the patterns the interlinked roots make. It's reminiscent of a celtic knotwork design, though that's only by chance.

I did change the birds; My original plan was to applique them in deeper colours, but I decided that they would be too dominant, so instead they're wholecloth as well, but I used lighter threads to make sure they were still visible. I'm not overly thrilled with the colours, but I do feel that quilting them was the right call. I found a bird silhouette with an image search which approximated what I wanted, traced it, then adapted it significantly until it matched my mental image. Each one is double-quilted. I used 40wt variegated trilobal polyester (2 Superior Rainbows, one Gutermann).

Since these photos, I've bound the quilt (in solid black). After machining the bainding to the front, I quilted a line of charcoal Glitter in the binding's 'ditch' to add a bit of oomph, but it didn't stand out much, so after hand stitching the binding to the back, I hand threaded a brighter holographic thread through the charcoal Glitter, and that has helped, but the quilt still seems to lack some oomph.

I've considered adding some tiny crystals, but I don't think that will have the desired effect. I had planned to fill the trees and roots with the charcoal Glitter as well, but I think that will detract from the crisp lines of the tree. I'm interested in your thoughts on what I should or shouldn't add...