Monday, 23 September 2013

Sycamore leaves

The room this quilt will eventually go in has been decorated with stencilled sycamore branches. The leaf shape was too complex for the size of the appliqued leaves, so I added a few in the quilting:

I filled all the rest of the background with this swirly pattern. It has a similar effect to McTavishing (which I often use on my smaller tree quilts) but I find it easier to quilt at a larger scale - which is not only much faster, but more suitable for a larger quilt. It's especially suitable in an autumn quilt, having the appearance of wind blowing the leaves off the tree.

It also fits quite nicely into the odd spaces between the branches and is quite adaptable.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Yes, it was a possum's tail

Here's a quick close-up of the possum:

I've been busy quilting and will have photos of that to share tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Why I love my stash

With a little imagination, a piece of floral fabric you're never likely to use...

can become...

a pair of bluebirds!

These two represent North American birds known as Eastern Bluebirds, which are local to my customer who requested them in her tree quilt. They have a gorgeous russet breast and cream underside, so the red here uses a little artistic licence. I'll need to use both blue and red threads to applique them, and am considering whether a using little cream under the belly as well will add to or detract from them.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Autumn leaves

Once that tail was done, the next step was the tree itself, which is now appliqued in place. Then I cut out the leaves in a variety of autumnal colours, with my intended binding fabric (to the left) as a guide.

All the leaves are together here, to  see how the colours work - once I'm happy with the colours, I'll spread them out over the whole tree. There are still a lot more here than I would usually put on one of these trees (I did lots so I could play with the colours) so it's likely that some won't make the final cut. So far, I absolutely love the colours and the way this quilt is coming together.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mediterranean Tiles

My quilt Mediterranean Tiles is in the new issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting (Vol 22 No 12).

I originally designed it for my second niece (almost 5 years ago!) before deciding to make her a beach scene like her big sister - you can see I had beach colours in mind even in this quilt! While I liked the design too much to abandon it, I didn't have occasion to push it up my priority list until it was commissioned.

As an aside, I find it impossible to type the word Mediterranean without spelling it out in my head as though saying it, even though my fingers type it automatically. My primary school principal was excellent, and among other things, he used to pop into our classrooms at random and teach us something quick (I think he missed the teaching part of the job). On one occasion he taught us to spell Mediterranean and came back some time (days?) later to quiz us. I bet he never anticipated just how well it would stick in my mind!

Anyway, most of this quilt is made from easy half-square triangles., but the centre block is a bit of a challenge. Not hard, just a bit fiddly. The centre star is sewn without sewing through the seam allowance at  the centre, which allows the seam allowances to naturally fan out, which distributes the bulk of eight pieces meeting far better.

And then there are the set-in seams to add the squares around the star, and the inner ring of diamonds. I promise they're not hard; just follow the steps carefully. One thing which helps is knowing that there's only one fiddly block, then the rest can be chain-pieced, even if there are a lot of HSTs. Honestly, I'd be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone commented on my patience - yet I'm really most horribly impatient!

I made the decision to custom quilt this one. While it doesn't always show up well, I didn't want to detract from the piecing with an allover.

The quilting has a bit of everything; continuous formal swirls (and a some continuous curves) in the centre block, and the larger triangles are filled with feathers on a single side of an arc.

A couple of borders have overlapping arcs, which were marked, but free-motion quilted without a ruler

And I filled some of the background spaces (around the Friendship Stars, below, and in the small pale triangles of the Birds in the Air blocks) with a small stipple.

I used quite a variety of fabrics; the outer border print is an old one by Michele d'Amore, there's some pale Stonehenge, a couple of unknown tone-on-tones, plus prints from three different Tula Pink collections (Neptune, Prince Charming and Salt Water).

Monday, 16 September 2013

Missing a stitch

For the first time since buying my Bernina 820, tonight I wished I still had my Pfaff QE 4.0. Why? It has one stitch which is perfect for the applique I'm doing, and I can't replicate it on the 820! It's a zigzag that has an inbuilt change of stitch width (with a fairly long repeat and random effect). I even double-checked my older Pfaff, just in case it had that stitch, but as expected, the answer was 'no'.

I've tried several methods, including programming a series of zigzags of varying width, but when doing that, the 820 insists on an extra stitch after each zigzag, which ruins the effect. My best results (shown) so far have been by using the regular zigzag stitch, reducing the pressure of the presser-foot, and rapidly zig-zagging the fabric as it feeds through the machine - but unsurprisingly, this is a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to actually securing the edges of the applique. So in this regard, it's lucky that I'm going over each edge twice, blending threads - though it's not fun to do. The photo below is blown up large to show the stitch details - the piece of applique fabric is only about 1/2in wide at the top, tapering down to about 3/8in at the bottom.

However, I wouldn't swap my Bernina 820 for anything, and it's somewhat excessive to want what is still an expensive machine for a stitch I've used on only one other quilt out of almost 200 - and in small amounts on both!

Sunday, 15 September 2013


I've been preparing for the new tree quilt tonight. I've got a number of applique pieces ready to fuse and have cut the background pieces, ready to piece.

Here's an enlarged and very much reworked tree, which is almost ready to trace to Lite Steam-a-seam2. At its widest, it's almost 25in, and will end up around 35in tall, including the roots, so will require two separate pieces of web, since my roll (which I once thought wide) is only 24in. I can see a few more things I want to change, but that can wait until I've had some sleep.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Linen & Lace

Linen & Lace is a wholecloth table runner I made for the machine quilting issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting (vol 22 no 10). It was out about a month ago, but it has taken me ages to edit all the photos - I found this one really hard to get the colours accurate, especially the linen.

It's made in the same way as Crystallised - entirely free-hand, free motion quilted, though I did use guidelines to keep the patterns even. And this one has a lot more quilting in it - which probably goes a long way to explaining why I'd had enough of quilting lace by the time it was done!

Apologies in advance, this is rather photo-heavy to show the details!

This time I chose colours which were more my style - purple and green with a splash of dark teal,  instead of the ubiquitous red and aqua. My starting thread palette is below, but I didn't use the darkest purple, and left out a few of the very similar greens and purples, too.

The white Glide thread was the base, and I quilted a lot in that before starting on the other threads.

Each lace doily is different, and I tried leaving some with only a single colour added and one (above)in all-white (and silver) - although the green (below) one does have one hard-to-spot line of purple!

As with the previous version, the heavier thread (12wt Razzle Dazzle by Superior) was done in bobbinwork, which basically means it was couched by machine from the back, with the heavy thread hand-wound onto the bobbin. I do this after I have a good structure of other quilting - since I can't see the guidelines from the back, I use the existing quilting as my guidelines instead.

By quilting patterns overlapping others, the lace becomes quite dense.

I've rotated a few of the photos, because I can leave the portrait-oriented ones bigger to show better detail.

This quilt would be an excellent way to practice free-motion quilting control, but you could also achieve a similar effect by playing with the fancy stitches on our sewing machines that most of never use!

I didn't decide until the last minute whether I'd actually chop of the corners. I really like the finished look it gives to table runners, but it also meant cutting off quilted sections of a couple of the larger edge doilies - which would have totalled several hours worth of stitching all up! I know I made the right decision, but now I can't bring myself to let go of the trimmed corners!

I love the heart effect on the outside of the one below. It's actually created by first quilting the outer scallops, then joining the pairs with a row of big Vs. I also love its spiral centre.

I actually think the one below got too dense - a lesson in knowing when to stop!

Deliberately leaving the centre as a small, unfilled circle avoids the thread build-up that many have, and adds visual variety. This one looks quite floral, especially with the lines radiating out from the centre circle.

And fro a totally different effect, flip it over and use the back! I used a gorgeous hand-dyed-effect wideback left over from a single bed quilt, and most of the bobbin thread was white BottomLine:

Now the question - could I bring myself to allow it to be used on a table?!

I'm not ready to list this one for sale just yet, but let me know if you're interested - I could be convinced. Of have a go at your own - don't forget to show me photos if you do!

New quilt, new palette

Here's the starting palette for a commissioned quilt I'm about to start:

I pulled these together before going shopping for anything else. The stripe is the likely binding. The cream and pale green in the upper right are representational - I needed to buy something similar in larger quantity of the background. Quite a few of the options in the middle row won't make it into the actual quilt - some I've already eliminated, and others just won't be needed. The three at the bottom right look rather out of place, but I promise they'll work nicely. And below are what I'll add from my shopping trip, including the actual background fabrics - the green is an almost identical (but slightly paler) fossil fern to the representational one I started with.

As I was looking at all the landscape colours and prints, while I was at it, I also bought small cuts of the stack below for another upcoming commission - though I will need to add significantly to it, especially in the brown-ochre range, and again will likely not use them all.