Monday, 27 May 2013

Quilting in space

Inspired by James and Eleanor's recent interest in the International Space Station and the idea of a quilter in space (AstroKarenN launches tomorrow), I thought this was a suitable addition to my space quilt:

It's very simplified, being only about an inch across, but hopefully it's clear what it is!

James and Eleanor have been wanting to see the ISS and we've been checking on where it is at various times using this tracker, but then I found a really handy website which tells you when are the best times in the coming days to see the ISS from almost any place on Earth. Just after sunset is usually the best time, and for us, this Thursday will be a really good opportunity. So as long as it's not too cloudy, we're heading to a nearby lookout with a camera and hope to wave to Karen!

Residents or visitors

This is one of the details I planned right from the very beginning in my first sketch of the quilt. They're done in free-motion using a fine BottomLine thread; I would have chosen something a bit thicker, but this was the perfect colour, so I went around them twice so they're not too hidden. They show up in the detail photo, but at little more than 1 1/4in tall, you need to look to spot them on the actual quilt.

I decided these two would be best added prior to sandwiching, so I added a small piece of fabric behind them to act as a stabiliser. They're deliberately a little different from each other; it'll be up to the new owner to make a story about that...

And while I think of them as Martians, and have placed them on Mars, who's to say whether they are residents of or visitors to the planet. Until I need to complete their Inter-planetary Census form, it doesn't matter.

Sunday, 26 May 2013


Here's a close-up of Australia, appliqued to Earth before I affixed all the planets to the quilt background.

In the next few days, I'll share some peeks at the details I'm adding to my 65 x 80in solar system, both before and during the actual quilting.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Earth and Sun

I've had a couple of lazy nights, but here's the latest progress on the space quilt:

I cut the sun from three fabrics and fused them together and to the background. There's only fusible web around the edges (about 1/4in wide) and they're cut so that there's not too much build-up of layers. They're not appliqued yet though.

I've also got things ready to trace the parts of land I want to fusible web. Earth is currently a completely water-covered planet, but Australia and some of her neighbours will change that tomorrow. Later, I'll probably add more of the smaller islands in thread only - they're too small to applique (Earth's diameter is about 7in here).

Monday, 20 May 2013

Painting planets

I researched images of the planets to get an idea of textures and colours. I already had an ideal commercial print for the moon, and an over-painted print which will work well for Mars, but the rest I painted myself today. Earth is going to be the hardest with the details; I'm undecided yet how to achieve it; probably raw-edge applique on top of the circle prior to adding it to the quilt top.

 Top - Saturn; bottom left - Venus, bottom right - Jupiter

I'll create the planets and insert a layer of batting to work as trapunto and give them a little fullness, then I think I'll applique them by machine as invisibly as possible, but I'm undecided just yet, so am having an early night while  I mull it over..

Top, L-R: Neptune, Uranus, Moon (commercial print)
Bottom, L-R: Earth, Mars (over-painted commercial print), Mercury

After that, there are just a few details to add before quilting - at which stage I'll be adding a lot more details. I want to add in some of Jupiter's moons, a pair of green martians, the ISS, Saturn's rings, a comet and tail, the Southern Cross....

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Making space

As James and Eleanor have been watching youtube videos from the International Space Station (the function of the toilet in particular is hilarious to 5- and 7-year-olds!) I have been piecing together my own version of space.

Once I'd run out of my flower-headed pins with cutting the pattern pieces from fabric, I started pairing them up and sewing them together. After going back and forth to the computer screen and flipping between the 12 photos I took of the layout, I decided to print them out and puzzle them together. I edited the photos first, removing any colour and increasing the contrast and sharpness, then printed them at about 20 x 25cm, trimmed the margins and puzzled then taped them together as neatly as possible. This is taped to the wall next to my pinning/sewing space, and I mark each seam with a wiggly line as it's sewn. It worked really well; I managed to keep track of what I'd done nicely.

I divided the pieces into piles for each 10 (1-9, 10-19, 20s, 30s and so on) so they'd be easier to find, and that worked well, too. I did find it frustrating when I'd work out a pair to join, then find I hadn't cut one of them, but that'd be solved by buying more pins - which I've been meaning to do for ages and now done - for next time!

Because of the way I drew out the curved shapes, some seams need to be sewn before others - although with some it's less important. This keeps the sewing lines as smooth as possible. I've found that the registration marks are beyond helpful, although I wish I'd put a few more in in places. On the whole, the curves sewed together really nicely. I pin as little as possible - at the registration points, any cross-seams, where there's a big curve, and from the first registration mark back to the beginning of the seam. I leave the end unpinned, and just ease the edges together under the presser-foot as I sew. The main difficulty is getting the ends of the seams smooth at the same time as ensuring that the ends of each seam are completely encased in the next seam. It's all pieced using my usual 1/4in foot.

I pressed with low steam as I went, just to make sure they're lying nice and flat, and the seam allowances stay neat when I sew across them. I was worried that the unmeasured and hence somewhat inaccurate and varying seam allowances (added by hand/eye) might mean the top wouldn't lie flat and square. But that's not been an issue and the few small problem areas are easily pressed into submission with a little steam.
I finished the background late last night. Above is the whole pieced top (apart from the sun; I just need to decide on the fabric) and below is a closer section. It's lying square and is accurate size-wise. Although it doesn't lie entirely flat, I'm confident it will do once quilted.
After the sun (and I also need to add some flame-shaped rays) it will be time to add the planets etc., so tomorrow I'll be painting some fabrics to get the right colours and textures.

BQF Bed Quilt: Along the Jetty

This is my recently-finish beach scene quilt, which I called "Along the Jetty".

Each of my beach scene quilts is a little different, and this is one because of its size (single, or twin)and borders. To make the scene work on a bed, we (the friend who commissioned it and I) decided to make the scene to cover the top of the bed, and use a coordinating pieced border for the drop at the foot at sides, otherwise key parts of the scene would be lost. I also thought the scene might not work so well at the much larger size.

Something else new on this one is the appliqued kite. I continue to add to my stash of fabrics suitable for these quilts, and the kite print was a recent purchase. I like the extra pop of colour, and it's fun on a child's quilt.

The sun is the only section where the foundation-piecing is pre-determined. Everywhere else I allow the prints to dictate the cutting. In the lower section of sky, I used both an as-purchased section of a commercial pinkish sky print, and a few pieces of the same which I'd over-painted with a blue wash a while back - I like the over-painted bit better!

This time I also tried adding in an extra hut from a different print as an applique. I left a little of the background around the hut in the applique piece for a few reasons; to include the dog, to see if it would blend in better (not really!) and because the applique stitches would blend better on the background than over the edges of the hut.

Because of the taller scene section, I built the reef deeper than usual. This is all foundation-pieced onto sections of lightweight interfacing. Because the reef isn't right at the bottom of the quilt, I didn't quilt it quite as densely as usual, so that the quilt would be flat and have an even hand.

It's all free-motion quilted; I started by going along in the ditch where the beach section is appliqued to the sky, and where the water is appliqued to the sand, and then did the kite strings. The sun is quilted in the ditch, and then has a row of peachy-orange flames surrounding it, and the rest of the sky is filled with wind-like swirls. The sea is filled with wavy lines, which get more free-form deeper down, and I quilt around the feature creatures as I get to them. The reef is quilted in a multi-coloured variegated Superior Rainbows (trilobal poly) thread to add to, blend and complement the prints. I quilted in the ditch around the border frames, but left the actual strips unquilted for contrast.

I really like the way the borders worked; it just took a little luck and some calculations to make it all fit nicely.

Size: Approx 66 x 82in
Completed: April 2013
Design: Original
Techniques: Free foundation-piecing, machine applique, free-motion quilting

I am entering this quilt in the Bed quilts category of the May 2013 Bloggers' Quilt Festival.

BQF Applique Quilt: Fluttering By

I made Fluttering By for my Gran. Gran taught me how to do English paper piecing when I was in my teens - unwittingly setting me on the path to quilt addiction. I've now been quilting over half my life!

After Gran moved to a smaller home several years ago, we decided she needed a new quilt for her smaller, single (twin) bed. That it would feature butterflies was a foregone conclusion. Any letter from Gran is instantly recognisable even by my children, by the flock of butterfly stickers she adds!

I had Vicki Welsh custom-dye the wide fabric for me in a gradient of Gran's favourite greens and turquoises. All the butterflies are cut from my considerable stash of Vicki's hand-dyed gradient fabrics, too.

I found a selection of butterfly silhouettes online and printed them out in several sizes, then traced lots and lots of them onto Lite Steam-a-seam2 - from memory the quilt has 137 appliqued butterflies!

It took a while to position them to my satisfaction, then I fused them in place before sandwiching the quilt. They're free-motion appliqued in place, and I went around each one twice, using matching Aurifil threads. By doing this after sandwiching, the applique stitches are also quilting. While appliqueing the butterflies, I added the antennae. There's also one wholecloth butterfly, for something a bit different.

Once all the butterflies were done, I quilted some feather plumes in the large open spaces, then filled the rest of the space with a free-hand swirly design which worked well in all the odd spaces.

I finished by binding with the main fabric. I'd carefully cut what I needed for the top leaving enough spare all around for the binding. I flipped it so the turquoise section is at the bottom, against the green, and vice versa.

Size: Approx 66x82in

Finished: 2012
Techniques: Machine applique, free-motion quilting
Design: original

This is my entry in the Applique quilt category of the May 2013 Blogger's Quilt Festival.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Curved piecing

Here's just a quick glimpse of the first few pieces coming together; more later when it's not 4am!

I've got a system in place to help me keep track of all the pieces, but I still need to be really careful to build it in a smart order so the piecing is as smooth as possible. So far, so good...

Monday, 13 May 2013

Starting a big quilt

I started a new quilt on Friday night. It's one I've been designing in my head and on paper for a while, and I finally made a decision on how to achieve it. Unfortunately it requires me to draft a full-size pattern to work from.

It's 1.7 x 2m, and the background is pieced from curved shapes - 125 of them as it turns out. I started by taping together large sheets of paper to get a piece big enough, then drafted the shapes in pencil. Then I drew over them in a black marker, numbered all the pieces, added registration marks on all seams, and photographed the whole thing in sections for future reference.

Then I had to cut them apart. The cut shapes are the final design, and it doesn't matter if they're not perfectly along the lines, as long as the curves are smooth.

Then I pushed the pieces back together into position, and started selecting fabrics. Note the supervisor on the sofa; it was probably about 2am by this point, but I couldn't leave it like this, so kept going - luckily Simon had taken James and Eleanor away for the weekend, so there was nothing to get me up on Saturday morning!

I used a funny assortment of household items (different coloured straws, cutlery, plastic cups, coins, even balls of yarn!) to represent the different fabrics, as I chose which pieces would be cut from which prints:

(Note the other supervisor on my folded quilt - I kept blocking access to his basket under the table shoved to the side, so put out the quilt as a replacement; arthritis stops him from jumping onto the sofas.) I finally got to bed at about 4.30.

Then came the slow task of pinning each pattern piece to the selected fabric, drawing around it with a contrast marker, adding the 1/4in seam allowance as I went. I also marked the registration marks in the same black and white permanent markers (all in the seam allowance or on the cutting line, so none will show in the finished quilt). Oh, and cutting them out. I keep them pinned to their pattern piece until I use them, at which stage I also write the piece number in the seam allowance. More on these next steps tomorrow...

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Foundation piecing

Although as far as I'm concerned, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, removing the papers is definitely the downside of foundation piecing. However, it's made far better when you have a 5-year-old assistant who just wants to hold the bowl (for all the paper scraps) in exactly the right place for you, and have a cute conversation. Thank you Eleanor!

It certainly made the process much more enjoyable, and got I all the blocks done this afternoon. One of my favourites is above. This evening I've joined all the block, added the first border, and am no auditioning the main border. I couldn't find a batik matching what I had in mind anywhere, but have found a print (from my stash - even better!) which gives the right effect. It's just not quite the colour I'd intended, so I'm not rushing into a choice.