Monday, 29 October 2012

Giveaway reminder

I just wanted to remind you to enter my giveaway. There's no need to guess the design source correctly to win - but I do promise that it is so famous that I'm certain you've all heard of it.

Aircraft engine - a potential future quilting design?!

I haven't done a lot of quilting this weekend, but I did at least manage to finish the ditch quilting on my current quilt, and complete most of the binding; I'll complete the hand stitching tomorrow evening.

James and Eleanor in an Aero Macchi training plane

Today's photos are from our afternoon at the South Australian Aviation Museum's Family Fun Day. I let James and Eleanor take turns with my old camera, which they absoutely loved - though the results were mixed!

Eleanor under a Canberra Bomber

They got the chance to climb into a number of old planes and their cockpits, hear some restored (and EXTREMELY loud) plane engines, crank an aircraft engine and see how it worked, and look at lots more.

For James it was also his long-awaited chance for a flight in a helicopter using some of his birthday money. It may have been a short ride, but I think it was money well spent!

The area around the Port isn't the most scenic, but this is the view back towards the city; we live in the hills right near the centre of the photo.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Milly's Monswoon quilt

Now that Milly has shared her completed Monswoon quilt, here are some final photos of the whole thing after I quilted it. It was terrific to quilt, and I feel privileged to have been let loose on it! The brief was feathers, formal, and maybe a touch of whimsy. The whimsy had me stumped.

I spent ages playing with options before I started, but only ever finalised each bit as I got to it, so the design evolved as I went. I started by McTavishing the background of the stars in the middle of the swoon blocks.

Next I quilted the four feathered circles, and segmented the centre circle and filled that with more McTavishing:

I then used a variation on the feathered circle inside the stars:

Next up was a double-feather border, with more McTavishing filling the spaces around it:

The outer sections of the swoon blocks were filled with feathers (the wide points) and swirls (the dark diamonds), and I also quilted in the ditch around the coloured sections.

My next idea came from a blog I read, but I can't remember where. I decided to break up the centre spaces with some strips of different quilting, bordered by double lines. When I use this technique again, I'll do the double lines slightly further apart to make them stand out even better. I filled the strips with a large filigree design:

I used a variation on this technique around the centre block, using three sections (again divided by double lines) but instead of being parallel, they radiate from the centre of the quilt. The centre of the sections is the same filigree as before, and I used a double feather in the outer sections, to tie it in with the feathered border and circles.

Then it was just a matter of filling the remaining spaces with McTavishing.

All up this quilt took around 28 hours to quilt - though that's a bit of an estimate, since I lost track about halfway through, and had to guess a bit - and took close to 425,000 stitches.

Milly has some lovely photos of the bound and finished quilt and more of its story here on her Tin Whistle blog, including this lovely one of it on her bed, with matching pillowcases:

Thank you again, Milly.

Bloggers' Quilt Festival - Winter Windows

Thank you for stopping by! I'm Emma, I live in Adelaide, South Australia, and I started quilting about 18 years ago, in my teens. I don't really have a set style (who needs labels?!); I do a bit of everything - as long as it's quilting! And I like to do everything myself, from the designing and construction to the quilting and finishing. I'm even getting into a bit of fabric painting.

Regular readers here will have seen this quilt before, as it was recently published in Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine, and I was able to share it at last. But I've decided to make it my BQF entry, because I'm so proud of the quilting - which I did entirely on my domestic sewing machine; a Bernina 820.

The quilt top itself is simple enough; I added a few borders to some star blocks which I'd made the wrong size for another quilt and threw them together with a couple of borders. But I decided to make the quilting the real feature and really went to town; adding loads of details and creating secondary patterns. I made a deliberate decision to try and keep it relatively modern, with no feathers for a change!

(full back view)

Apart from a few structural lines done with the walking foot (e.g. the triangles in the borders), it's all free-motion quilted, using white and pale aqua BottomLine thread by Superior.

I created my own template to mark some parts, marked others freehand (both with a Sewline air erasable marker, which vanished beautifully on its own) and quilted others totally freehand.

(detail of the back)

The extra depth to the quilting is provided by a double-layer of batting, which gets difficult to manipulate on a domestic sewing machine, but is certainly effective.

I did try to track the hours involved in quilting this, but lost count. I estimate somewhere in the vicinity of 30 hours on the quilting alone. More photos and details blogged here.

Quilt statistics:
Size: 53 x 66in
Uses foundation-piecing, double-batting, free-motion quilting
Best Category: Home machine quilted quilt
Designed, pieced and quilted by: me
Completed: May 2012
Published in Australian Patchwork & Quilting Vol 21 No 11

Thank you for visiting! I do hope you'll pop back sometime and have a look at my other quilts.

Other quilts and their stories entered in the current Bloggers' Quilt festival can be found here.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Quilting in the ditch may not be exciting, but it certainly is effective. I make no secret of the fact that I avoid it if I can. It's boring to quilt, and little mistakes show. A lot of people assume that because of the quilts I make, I must have a lot of patience. They're SO wrong! I'm all about instant gratification, and taking the easy way where I can. But sometimes I have to knuckle down and do it the 'right' way. And this is one of them.

Having quilted the white background to this quilt (above and below), I knew the dark spikes would need something to balance them. I suspected it would be ditching, but in vain hope I tried something else first. It wasn't right, and I quickly unpicked it - it only took a few minutes. And then I ditched a couple of blocks, just to be sure.

It's pretty obvious that ditching is the way to go. The front block in the photograph below has been ditched; notice the lovely straight points. The one behind has not, and the points are all wavy. The angle of the photo exaggerates the difference - but in person it's quite evident even straight on. So I've done 2 blocks, and have another 23 to go. Tomorrow. Because along with impatience, I'm an expert procrastinator!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

One Thousand

In a little over five years of blogging, I've notched-up a thousand posts. I never imagined when I started what a terrific record of my quilting it would create, the friendships and inspiration it has generated, or what it has done for my little part of the quilting world. Blogging isn't just about writing posts, it's about sharing with and participating in a community.

In celebration of my thousandth post, I'm having a giveaway. I'm preparing to start working on a new quilt, which I can't share for a while yet, but Eleanor and I are very excited about it. I've ordered some wide fabric to paint myself, and some special stencils to go with it. And amongst others, I will be using the quilting pattern drawn below:

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is comment, guessing the famous design source of my quilting pattern. In exactly a week, I will randomly pick a winner, who will receive a bundle of fabrics totalling 3-5 metres, all linked to the quilt design. (I've been collecting them for a while, as the design concept simmered away at the back of my mind, but many won't make it into the final quilt.) I'll also include a copy of Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine with one of my designs.

GIVEAWAY CLOSED Winner and answer announced here.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Sandwiching a quilt

While I'm lad to have reached this stage, because it means I've just passed where I'd hoped to get by the end of the weekend, I have to admit that sandwiching the quilt is definitely not the best bit! There's nothing creative about it, it's tedious, and it's not great on my back. My table could do with being about 2 inches higher for cutting and pinning.

Anyway, it's sandwiched now, and I'll start the quilting tomorrow night. I'm on a fairly short deadline to get this one to the editor. It's turned out a bit gaudier than I'd expected (although the colours do look better in person than in this flash photograph); hopefully it'll grow on me as I quilt.

Stay tuned for my next post; this is my 999th and I have a giveaway planned to celebrate the coming milestone.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Butterfly Quilt

I did just finish the butterfly quilt, which I've called Fluttering By, in time, and I gave it to Gran at a big family dinner on Monday night.

A couple of my uncles helped hold it up:

The background is an extra-wide custom hand dyed gradient by the clever and accommodating Vicki Welsh, who worked with me to get exactly the right shades of green and aqua. It's hard to get right in a photo, but the bottom is really quite an emerald green and a fair bit darker than the top (you can see the contrast in the binding).

I trimmed the fabric carefully so as to leave strips from right around the edges to use for the binding, which I reversed, so that the dark green binding is around the light aqua part of the quilt and vice versa. Having set aside this quilt for over a year due to problems with my old machine, I thought I'd lost these carefully trimmed pieces, and after a lot of searching was ready to give up and choose something else; luckily I decided to look once more!

All the butterflies are cut from the large selection of Vicki's hand-dyed gradients I have collected in my stash. They're beautiful fabrics, and are available in her Etsy store. If a specific one isn't in stock, she can do them on request.

I found a selection of butterfly silhouettes that I was able to use, printed them in a range of sizes, then traced oodles of them onto Lite Steam-a-seam2, fused them to the fabrics, and spent a number of nights cutting them all out with sharp scissors. I have a Fiskars pair with full-size comfy handles, but small, pointy, strong; sharp blades which are perfect - they are easy to control and cut cleanly and easily right to the tip.

I then started laying them out on the background fabric, starting with the biggest and working down to the smallest. The temporary hold of the steam-a-seam  when the pieces are simply pressed in place with a hand is easily enough to keep them in place while I moved and manipulated the whole thing to the ironing board to fuse them permanently.

After that was when the dramas started. My old machine just refused to free-motion applique them on. It coped ok on the background, but the simple addition of one layer of fabric with a fine fusible was too much for it. No matter what adjustments I made, I had myriad skipped stitches and broken thread every few inches. It was unbearable, especially knowing how many there were to do, so I set it aside and determined to get an 820 ASAP! I did so earlier this year, and finally had space in my quilting schedule to pick this up again recently. I appliqued the butterflies in only a couple of days.

I free-motion quilted around each butterfly twice to applique it at the same time as the quilting, using Aurifil cotton Mako 50wt thread for the whole quilt, top and bottom. I have an Aurifil thread chart (made using the actual thread) and found it invaluable to select and order a whole heap more colours that were just right for this project.

Once the butterflies were in place I heaved a huge sigh of relief and started quilting a few feather plumes in the larger open spaces on either side of the quilt. Up the top I quilted purple feathers, and hyperquilted them with pink. Then moving down, I quilted pink feathers and added peach hyperquilting, and down towards the bottom the feathers are peach, with yellow hyperquilting.

The feathers add a bit of interest and were really fun to quilt. I used a Sewline air erasable marker to mark the spines and make a few small marks to indicate the spaces I wanted to fill, then quilted it all freehand. The marks vanished within about an hour this time, so I did it bit by bit.

I used the bump method for the feathers. It never used to my my preferred option, but I'm coming to like it, and am getting better and bumping back neatly so it's not so visible. As I started quilting these, I realised that the feathers would look much better if instead of finishing in an even curve, they alternated shorter and longer. I really like the effect and am pleased I've discovered this for myself, as I think it will work well in future.

After the feathering came the somewhat tedious task of filling the background. it wouldn't have been so bad if it were a large open space, but constantly having to stop and echo the butterflies and make sure I neither missed a gap nor quilted myself into a corner was frustrating. I dithered for a while over my choice of filler, and I'm pleased with the way the swirl design worked in all the odd spaces.

I'm very happy to have finished this quilt at last, and to have it out of my sewing room, and Gran was thrilled with it, so I couldn't ask for more.

Just scraps

I have so may things to share just now that I don't know where to start! Fortunately tomorrow is Friday (my day) so I will try and catch you up a bit then. For now, I'll leave you with the colourful scraps left from cutting pieces for a couple of quilts:

All Paula Nadelstern fabric, from a variety of collections: Patternista, Nuance, Deja Vu, Opulence and Luminosity. There were a lot of pieces, and all off-shaped templates, so it's taken two evenings. Tomorrow I'll cut the background fabric for the first quilt, which should be faster.

Monday, 15 October 2012

I think I can...

I'm madly trying to get this quilt finished today. I only have a few more hours to finish the last bit of quilting, make, attach and then hand stitch the binding, photograph it and sew on the label. It's going to be touch and go, especially as I wasted a good half hour searching for the binding fabric. I finally found it - right next to my old 60-degree triangle ruler!!! Just as I predicted; a week or so after I replaced it - but I don't feel too bad, because it turns out this was was fractionally too small.

But, busy or not - I do need a few 5-minute OHAS breaks, so here's a peek before I get back to it.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Put a feather over here

...and a feather over there...

To either side of the flock of butterflies there are some relatively large open spaces, and I decided to partially fill these with some feature feathers pluming from a couple of the outer butterflies. The base fabric grades from a jade green at the bottom through to a slightly aqua-ish pale blue at the top. The top feathers (above) are purple with pink hyperquilting (interior echoing); then the next lot are pink with peach (below), and the third group (at the bottom) are peach with soft yellow.

Now I'm filling the background with large swirls in thread to match the fabric, and loosely echoing the butterflies and feathers as I go. Not as much fun as the feathering, and a bit slow and awkward in all the odd spots, but it's looking good so far.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Such a difference

I set this quilt aside a little over a year ago because it  (well really, my Pfaff) was driving me batty. With 130+ butterflies to FMQ applique in place, if a third of the stitches are skipped and the thread snaps and creates birdsnests about 15 times per butterfly (no exaggeration, I promise!) it's just not worth it. It was going to take me a lifetime and cost me my sanity! I think that was the point when I decided once and for all that I was going to get an 820 - though it took another 6 months or so before I finally did.

I've had other quilt I had to work on until now, but on Tuesday while James and Eleanor were at school, I made a really big dent in it, and I've managed the rest in the evenings since and this morning. All without fuss.

My only difficulty is the bobbins. With so many different colours, I'm always needing a new colour in the bobbin - but more than 3 months after I ordered them, I'm still waiting for another 24 from the UK. First they sent 6 bobbins, instead of 6 packs of 5. And when I still hadn't received the rest a few weeks ago, I contacted them again. The glib response was that they'd immediately shipped the right amount for a second time, but with not a word of apology I'm inclined to doubt the veracity of that. Bobbins for the 8-series are hideously pricey, so it's no tiny investment on my part. I'll give it a few more weeks to allow for slow shipping, but in the meantime, I'm out of empty bobbins and I hate that!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Catching up

Again, I've been busy quilting, but haven't blogged about it. After finishing quilting Monswoon, I got on with the triangle quilt. I finished the top, then found that my remaining backing fabric was just a little short after cutting what I needed for the top. So pieced a strip from the triangles left over from the border and used that to connect the two different colours on the backing (I added some of the other solid I used on the front). I'm really pleased with the effect.

This is about 1/4 of the back. I quilted a ribbon along the solid 'path' on the front, then filled the gaps with an open feather. It's now ready to bind.

Once that was done, I sandwiched and quilted a smaller customer quilt, which is now finished, parcelled and ready to post back later this morning. I also pieced together the batting for the little quilt James is making from a pile of offcuts. Why is it that I feel so virtuous when I do that?!

School went back after the holidays yesterday, and I must say I'm quite happy to have Tuesdays back to myself for a while. Today I want to start appliqueing the myriad butterflies which I set aside way back here, when my old machine just wouldn't FMQ satisfactorily.