Thursday, 28 January 2010

Squirrels and more

I've been busy with quilts all week, but haven't done much actual sewing. So here's a peek at part of the design of a new bed-size commission quilt I'll be starting as soon as the fabrics I ordered today arrive. There will be a number of surprises in this one.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Peek at Quilting Detail

The reason for the lack of posts all last week is that I've been working on quilting this. I can't show it to you properly yet - I will when I can. The quilting took an age, and I was doing my best not to procrastinate and blog instead of quilting!

First, all the background quilting was really quite dense (stitching lines about 3/16in apart) and then I decided I really did need to quilt in-the-ditch to give the front more definition. The quilting is now done, and the binding almost finished.

The photo directly above and below were taken before I added the final swirls in the empty sections.

The whole thing is quilted using Bottom Line threads, mostly white a but a few small patches in lime green. I'd say there's well over a kilometre of quilting thread in this piece, and it's only around 50in square!

I enjoyed quilting these ferns - not least because they were different from the drunk pointy paisley I was very tired of! I do like the effect of the quliting, and it worked well on this quilt because of all the triangular shapes - but at the same time I had to work hard to make sure the paisleys didn't follow the pieced background triangles too closely.


Why not continue while I'm at it?! Here's the third season in the tree series.

Yes, snowflake backgrounds again. But again, even here in Australia we do get autumn snow. I distinctly remember our second winter in Canberra (2000), we had substantial snow in late May. Canberra doesn't often get snow that settles, but this day it did. I remember standing at our front door catching clusters of snowflakes as big as 20c coins (that's bit over an inch diameter), on the phone with my parents in delight! While my family is used to snow, it just doesn't fall in the Adelaide plains (and only once every 20 years or so in the Adelaide hills - and then rarely enough to settle) so to have it at home was really something. Those of you in North America and Europe, don't laugh at these photos! The first is Simon's snow-covered boat in our garden; we ended up with about three times this much.

That afternoon we took Shadow to Corin Forest, on the outskirts of Canberra. He loved it, and spent the entire drive home bundled in old towels in my lap.

I remember taking our snowchains, but don't think we ended up putting them on. (Again, for those of you where snow is a common occurence who are snickering, most Australians aren't used to driving on snowy or icy roads, and it's so unusual outside the alpine areas, the roads aren't prepared for it!). Please excuse Simon's face obscured by falling snow; this was before we had a digital camera and had the ability to instantly review images! (I took these form my photo album and scanned them.)

Anyway, back to the quilt...

I switched to warmer colours all around for this version, and tried 'anchoring' it with some ground.

The bottom section is a copper-on-black fairy frost, and was a nightmare to FMQ because it was near impossible to see where I'd been.

You can really tell I'd just increased my fairy frost stash before I did this series; all the leaves are fairy frosts, too!

This is a detail of the quilting in the border:

And this one was taken in the late afternoon sun to really show the quilting texture:

Again, this quilt is in my Etsy shop, and the instructions for this version will be in the pattern.


While I'm on a roll, here is the Spring Tree Quilt. The photo below is before quilting, for comparison.

With a few colour changes, and blossoms instead of apples, it has an entirely different look.

I did keep the two background fabrics as snowflakes, but they're not that obvious after quilting, and anyway, spring snow is a reality - just not here!

I used two different pink fairy frosts for the blossoms. I tried quilting some texture into a few of the paler blossoms, but decided that while it looks ok, it didn't really add anything. Unpicking it would have left a mess, so I left those I'd done as they were.

In this case the quilting is a spring breeze, blowing off the last few blossoms as the leaves appear. I guess technically that places the tree in late spring, where there's less chance of snow, but that's artistic licence!

It seemend entirely appropriate to be photographing this one in my spring garden! Notice the other two in the background?

The outside photos are great for showing the texture of the quilting.

This quilt is in my Etsy shop; look for the pattern there too, by early February.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Winter Harvest

While writing the instructions for my Tree Quilt Series, I realised I never got around to blogging this quilt properly. In keeping with my plan to post about the quilts I somehow missed, here you go!

It was originally intended for me to keep, after I made the one on the right (above) for DQS7, but I ended up putting it in my Etsy shop, where it was my first sale! I made another for myself, which I will blog shortly.

I made a few minor alterations; flipping the tree and using a different tree fabric.

It's quilted in the same Emming style, to give the appearance of snowflakes swirling in the wind.

Each time I quilt in this style, it evolves and improves a little.

This picture shows some of the mess of threads on the back to finish-off after the quilting:

I've found a good way of stopping at exactly the right point when machining on my bindings, so that when I fold them over and handsew them down, I get a perfect mitre every time. One day I might do a photo tutorial about it here, but it uses a small ruler with a 45-degree line, and a hera marker (though this latter isn't completely essential).

The pattern is almost ready. It is written for the winter tree, but includes information on how to adapt it to make the Autumn and Spring versions, and even a Summer one. The instructions are written and have been proofed twice. I think I've worked out a suitable layout. The pattern has been drawn up, but I need to work out how to touch it up and print it full-size - my scanner and printer can't cope with A2 paper! If tomorrow's workmen (I've been getting a lot of odd jobs done while I'm on leave) come at a reasonable time, I'm planning to visit a few places and check out my options tomorrow.

Winnings Part 2

This week a beautiful selection of Valori Wells' fabrics arrived from Valori herself. I was lucky enough to win a giveaway from her blog a short while ago, and just look at what I received!

There are seven fat quarters from her Della Flannels range, aren't they gorgeous? And they're amazingly soft. I try not to buy flannels, because I just know I'll end up with a second stash, but a while ago I couldn't resist and picked up some of Valori's earlier flannels, and plan to team them with these and some of this to make James and Eleanor some bigger, snugglier winter play quilts (James has already requested a quilt from these!). I'm planning big pieces to showcase the prints and will do minimal quilting (if I can restrain myself) to keep them soft and snuggly. But that will wait until after summer!

Thank you again, Valori!

Winnings Part 1

I have been a very lucky and very slack blogger recently. Well, not all that recently. Back in December (blush) I was the international winner of a fabulous Big Bundle Giveaway from the Quiltmaker Blog to celebrate their 100 Blocks Blog Tour. As embarrassed as I am about how much time has lapsed, I still want to blog it, and give a huge thank you to Quiltmaker for their terrific giveaway.

Naturally there's a copy of their 100 Blocks, plus a beautiful book of colour palettes and a very handy book on Quilting motifs which I've already used as inspiration. Then there are four separate patterns for a variety of quilty projects, plus a kit with some very sweet fabrics. And then there's a packet of Bali Pops batiks! I've been wanting to start collecting some batiks for a while (I';m not entirely sure what for, but with the definit intention of using them in (a) quilt(s), and there are some truly lovely colours and prints in this selection. I just have to bring myself to take it apart and use it now!

So thank you very much to Quiltmaker, and apologies for taking so dreadfully long to acknowledge you properly!

Sunday, 17 January 2010


I was inspired by this quilt by Ferret I stumbled across by accident last week to have a go at a wholecloth. I love the idea of using white thread to draw on a black background, and of course being me, it had to be a snowflake. But as I started to draft the crystal, somehow my hand kept wanting to draw feathers. So I abandoned the straight-lines and points ideas, since the size I had in mind (around 20in square) wasn't going to leave much space to create the design with fillers anyway, and drew a feathered snowflake.

I thought tracing the design onto black fabric was going to present a problem, but a little creativity solved it effectively. My makeshift light-box consisted of my bendable halogen clipped to the table and turned upside-down, my 12.5in ruler, and eight tupperware cups held in place with double-sided tape. I also hold the pattern in place on the ruler and the fabric on both with a few pieces of double-sided tape. It worked a treat! Although with black fabric, make sure the lines on your pattern are quite dark - the heavy pencil lines were just ok, but the lighter ones too hard to see easily, so I went over them with a sharpie.

The ruler did get pretty warm though, so if you do this, I'd recommend turning off the light regularly - such as whenever you reposition the fabric. I traced with a clover white marker. Initially it looks as though its left no mark, but after a few seconds it shows up beautifully with just a single stroke. It comes out well with either water spray or ironing.

I stitched the snowflake outline with white Gutermann cotton, then experimented with fill options. I tried a few colours and threads and designs. The image below doesn't show it too well, but the top and bottom ones use a royal blue. The middle is a black and white variegated King Tut, but it wasn't the right place for it.

I ended up using royal blue Bottom Line thread, with a different colour (dark teal) in the bobbin. After I'd done the large feathers, I decided it'd be fun to turn it over and do the smaller ones from the back and have both colours showing. This is what I originally planned as the front:

Both sides look the same apart from the colour-swap, and now I can't decided which should be the front? Or whether I should make it double-sided. Apart from the label, that would be easy enough. But I can't decide between the binding fabrics; one works better with the blue and one with the teal. What do you think? This was originally going to be the back:

The charcoal looks a lot better in person than it does here. (ETA, I've sewn on the charcoal).

These are the two sides together for contrast:

Next time (there will be a next time) I'll fill the background with small swirls or something similar, not repeated echoing. I'm not entirely decided on this quilt's destination.

I'd also appreicate any tips for labelling a black double-sided quilt! My usual method would stick out a mile!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Twinkle, twinkle, Little star!

Seeing as I can't show a lot of what I'm working on at the moment, I thought I'd try and blog a few quilts which somehow escaped being blogged properly at the time. This post is actually about a pair of quilts, made for two sisters.

First came Twinkle, twinkle.

This quilt was foundation-pieced in sections; here it is in progress on a temporary 'design wall':

I'd pinned the background squares for each star in place here, and I used my camera to record my planned layouts as reference while I pieced them. Very handy!

Then for her little sister I made a matching quilt and called it Little Star. The only photo of this I blogged was this altered image here!

Here is what the quilt actually looks like:

I still wonder if the silvery snowflakes are too dominating!

This detail of the photo block shows just how similar they are. I printed out two squares (one per quilt) with the text and a centre-focused gradated colour background (after several trials in black and white on scrap paper to get the right size) onto printable cotton lawn and sliced them into QSTs to  position around the photo.