Monday, 31 October 2011

Book of Inspiration

A while back I kept noticing and being inspired by Charley Harper images, and was pleased to be able to find this wonderful compilation of his illustrations at The Book Depository. Thank goodness for their free worldwide shipping - it's no lightweight!

I've not yet had time to use the ideas in a quilt, but I do enjoy browsing through the pages, and no doubt a fully-formed idea will hit me when I least expect it, and demand to be made!

Its the lines in his bird illustrations which I find most inspiring:

The simplicity of the shapes should translate well to piecing.

Hmm the idea behind this one seems somewhat familiar...!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Stars of the Sea in AP&Q

A few days ago I gto my copy of Australian Patchwork & Quilting Vol 20 No11, which includes Stars of the Sea as a project.

I don't have brilliant photos of it - I only had about half an hour in which to take them before taking it to the post office, the sun was in the wrong spot to use my usual wall, my good camera had a flat battery (so I used the old one, which for some reason was also set on a very low resolution), I couldn't find a wall big enough for it to hang completely flat, and the best option didn't have room for me to stand far enough back to take a good straight-on image! However, I do have some nice detail images, and some progress photos, and will photograph it properly when I get it back in a week's time.

(image from AP&Q)

I absolutely love this quilt; I love the colours, and the effect of the blocks, and am thrilled with the border quilting - the centre quilting is just average, but it doesn't detract from the rest, so that's ok.

I used nine different colourings of the same star block, using a palette of seven aqua fabrics in varying tones and shades, plus a few extra aquas for the borders and binding. Ideally the border and binding fabrics would ahve been selected from those used in the centre, but I dind't have enough - and I decided to add the aqua borders after piecing the top (in fact, I'd actually sandwiched it without them, then changed my mind!).

These blocks are all shown prior to quilting

I did photograph one block in detail after quilting; I quilted the stars with silver metallic thread; each star in a different pattern:

A section of the border (looking at the photos again, I can't wait to do more quilting like this!):

I showed more photos of the whimsical feather quilting when I was doing it back in June, and love it as much now as I did then.

I used a bowl and Hera marker to mark the scallops and the feather spines - it was quick and easy (practically no pre-planning required) and left no marks to remove later! The feathers radiate form the corners, and 'meet' in the centres of the sides - I just kept adding 'another bowl' on either side until the gap between them was smaller than 2 bowls

I made my own template for the snowflakes (used in the corner scallops, and scattered among the loops in the background of the star blocks), but had difficulty removing the blue pounce. The blue water-soluble clover marker wasn't that keen on coming out, either.

This shows the quilting over the whole quilt - the only way I could get the whole thing in:

And the (rather sad) best I could do straight-on (admittedly it is a whopping 100 x 92in, king-size quilt!):

Stars of the Sea will be hanging in the Express Publications stand at the Festival of Quilts in Adelaide next weekend.

Spa palette

This is the palette for the new quilt I've started. It makes me think of a refreshing spa. It's to be a gift, and although it does need to be done in the next month or so, it has temporarily queue-jumped, because I felt the need to do some straightforward piecing for a while.

The palette is based on fabrics from the Fleur Nouveau range by Clothworks. I first picked up a few pieces of it at the Festival of Quilts nearly a year ago, and loved it. The design I came up with needed a more comprehensive gradation though, so I added to it from my stash. I've been wanting to use it for ages, and they seem the prefect colour for the intended recipient.

I started with close to 800, 1.5 x 4.5in strips, and at this stage they had been joined into almost 200, 4.5in quarter-blocks. Pressing all those seams did get a little tedious! While I had an eye to value balance, and tried to keep each quarter-block slightly different, I didn't actually plan where each piece would go, I just paired them up as I went. This is a slightly risky approach, because the final layout may not work quite as intended, but it's much faster! One day I'll get a big design wall, so I can lay them all out and still have space to sew - the thought of positioning 800 individual pieces of fabric on the floor wasn't pleasant; not only would it be uncomfortable placing them all, but, especially with polished floorboards and small visitors (canine and human) they'd slide around easily and get muddled anyway.

There's a little more work to do to get the quilt top into one piece, btu then I'll set it aside and get back to the higher priority quilts. Later, I'm going to add some fused applique to the top, before quilting. I'm planning to use a light solid over some of the darkest fabrics - does anyone have any tips on how to stop the colours showing through? The only thing I've thought of is first fusing the applique fabric onto a solid white.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Portholes - my Blogger's Quilt Festival entry

Welcome to my October 2011 Blogger's Quilt Festival entry. If you're not familiar with me or my blog, my name is Emma, Simon and I have 2 young children, I've been quilting for about 18 years, and have been blogging about it for the last 4 years. I've made over 150 quilts now, and design all my own work. I don't like anyone else having a hand in my quilts and do everything myself - from the designing through to the quilting (probably my two favourite stages of making a quilt).

(click on any image for a closer look)

I usually like to show a new quilt for BQF, and fortunately I finished Portholes only a few days ago, so it's fresh and ready to blog. Portholes is the seventh in my series of foundation-pieced beach-scene quilts, each with a different design. Three of the six have been for the nieces on my husband's side of the family, and this one is for a newly arrived (5-day-old) nephew.

We live in Adelaide, and Simon's sister lives near Perth - a 3-hour flight followed by a 3-hour drive away. By chance, Simon had a few days' work in Perth this week, and has extended his stay to visit the newest member of the family, and delivered the quilt to Kynan today.

To make these quilts, I sketch a rough design layout, then draw it out properly full-size. Then I divide the areas of reef, water (and for many quilts also beach and sky etc.) into sections, and build them up with fabric, one piece at a time. Each piece is fussy-cut. Above shows each foundation section pinned to the full-size pattern sheet. I've completed selecting the fabrics for the bottom pieces at this point, and they're all roughly pinned in place to the foundations, ready to sew.

My work area (in this case, it was my in-laws' lovely holiday house, where we stayed with them a few weekends ago) becomes a real mess while I'm selecting and cutting the fabrics, even though I only work with one 'set' of fabrics at a time (e.g. reef, plain water or sky...). It's actually pretty tidy in this photo, because I was only just starting to work with the next set of fabrics (The reef was done, and I was moving onto the plain water). As I cut a piece from each fabric, I don't waste time folding it neatly until the whole area is done, since I use most fabrics multiple times in the process, so instead of neat rows of folded fabrics, imagine a tossed-pile of loosely gathered fabrics strewn over every surface! (Simon's parents are wonderfully understanding of my obsession!)

Once the fabric selection and cutting is done, the acutal piecing is quick. The challenge in this quilt was joining all the sections together so they'd lie flat, while leaving gaps to add the portholes later, but despite (or perhaps because of!) the time I spent thinking about it, it really came together easily.

For the portholes, I used two suitably-sized plates to draw the cream outer circle and the feature-print circle at the centre, and cut the circle with enough seam allowance that I could use a sewline glue pen to hold the cream circle in place over it. The blue and red circles were made from bias-cut strips 1/4in and 3/8in wide respectively, which cover both the inner and outer raw-edges of the cream circles. Then I used the glue pen again on the bias strips and eased them into place and held them down with glue until I could machine applique them, using matching rayon thread and a small blanket stitch. I did the same to join the completed circles to the holey quilt top.

Unusually, I don't have many photos showing detail of the quilting on this quilt - although it's quite detailed, it's really designed to blend in and make the pieced top look more cohesive. I used a large freehand swirl in matching threads over the open areas of water, quilted closely around many of the sea creatures with thread to match the water behind them, and in the ditch around the blue and red circles on the portholes. Then I swapped to a variegated thread for the reef. I love Rainbows by Superior for this, and have used several rainbow-y colourways, such as Pinata (842) and Carnival (821). I follow the fabrics, stitching around coral formations, adding extra seaweed and generally blending the fabrics together better as I work my way along the reef.

Some of the posts about my other quilts in this series show the reef quilting better: Seaside, Breakfast on the Beach, Footsteps, Through the Arched Window and Morning Swim. Beach (a slightly different, queen-size quilt, was made before I started blogging, and though there's a photo in my gallery, I've never done a full post about it. But it's the quilt which started this whole series - partly because I couldn't stop collecting water, reef, sand and sky fabrics!) It was a wedding gift for Simon's brother and his wife who, like most of Simon's family, love sailing. Then when they had their first daughter a few years later, I wanted to make something that matched theirs.

I actually turned Through the Arched Window into a pattern, available in both paper and PDF formats. the pattern also includes a lot more information about the design process, so you can design your own!

While I love these quilts, it's rather ironic that I don't like going to the beach myself! I hate the heat, the stickiness and the sand - even the beautiful fine sand we have in Australia. I much prefer the snow and the cold, and have always collected snowflake fabrics - but have recently started collecting snowy scene prints, with the aim of making some snow-scene quilts along the same lines as the beach ones.

Thank you for coming by and reading through the whole saga. I'd love for you to browse around or say hello before you go and check out all the other wonderful BQF entries - just as I'm about to do!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

If wishes were fishes...

...we'd all cast nets in the sea (but would they look like these two?!).

Another of my quilts was published in Asutralian Patchwork and Quilting recently, and I got my copy yesterday, but I'm experiencing some difficulties with my external hard-drive (I'm hoping it's only temporary; it has all our digital photos, and not all are backed-up elsewhere yet - you can eb sure this will serve as a good reminder to get to that over-due job ASAP!). So I don't have most of the photos I want to share of it, and I'm going to wait (hopefully just a few days) and share it properly later.

In the meantime, here's another photo of the beach quilt I've just finished. I got it bound and photographed on Tuesday morning, attached the label in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and at 5am (only a few hours later) Simon took it with him to Perth. He's working there for a few days this week, then spending the weekend visiting his sister nearby, who on Sunday had a baby boy, Kynan. I'll reveal the whole quilt in my Blogger's Quilt festival post on Friday.

(And for the curious, the words at the beginning are an old cliche, used in a song wirtten by Eric Bogle. Eric is a Scottish folk-singer, who's lived in Adelaide for about 30 years, and is most famous for his anti-war song, 'And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda'. My father is probably his biggest fan, and I grew up listening to and loving his music - and am sharing it with my own children; Eric Bogle is James' number one request when we're in the car!)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Tooth fairy

Last Sunday was the start of the sailing season, and James sailed with Simon and Pop, but as the result of a fluke accident, he returned home with his mouth a bit of a mess, unfortunately including two very wobbly top teeth (at least they were his baby teeth), which previously hadn't been moving. Several dentist visits later, and yesterday he had his four front teeth out under a general anaesthetic (they also took out the bottom two, as they were showing no signs of moving, despite both adult teeth being right through behind them).


While it can't have been fun for him, I was impressed with how smooth the procedure was. I walked him into theatre, and was able to hold him on my lap while he had the gas anaesthetic, then the anaesthetist helped me lift him directly onto the operating table, and I walked out and left them to it. Half an hour later it was all done, and I was provided with the teeth in a nice little pouch for tooth-fairy duties, and shortly after I was back with him while he woke and had ice cream and then jelly. He's been remarkably good about it all, and is recovering well, but will have a big gap at the top for the best part of a year.


I knew he had suspicions about the tooth fairy, and waited until late to make the visit, leaving a sprinkle of fairy dust behind. However, my inability to find the really fine glitter was nearly the tooth fairy's downfall, as he determined it to be glitter, not fairy dust - he also let slip that he'd tried to use it to make magic, and it hadn't worked! Luckily my explaination that, "Of course it didn't work, you're not a fairy!" seemed to satisfy, and he was very pleased with the tooth fairy's generosity - I figured that four at once, plus the method of removal, warranted it. Next time, it'll be back to gold coins - although I expect the magic might have gone by then.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Maple Syrup

I finished this quilt quite a while ago, and just hadn't got around to sharing it. But it's more interesting than a picture of me writing quilt instructions, so I'm sharing it tonight. It'll be a gift for another one of James and Eleanor's kindergarten teachers (that's 2 quilts down, one to go, before the end of term), and as she's heading to Canada for a teacher exchange next year, I brainstormed a suitable name.

I used strips from a batik jellyroll and/or Bali-pop for the Palm blocks, and used narrow sashing between the blocks using the same fabric as the block backgrounds.

I showed some of the quilting months ago when I started doing it; I used a tessellating feathery pattern which utilised the open spaces, rather than sticking to the square blocks.

This quilt has a lovely, cosy feel to it, and I hope it gets plenty of use - I picture it wrapped around someone on a sofa, reading a book in front of a fire while it's snowing outside (you know, just to match the snowflake background fabric!).

Now I need to focus on the third quilt; I'd been planning something in deep reds, but Eleanor informs me that purple and orange are the colours of choice. If I decide to trust a 4-year-old, I'll probably go with purples!

Now, back to writing instructions and hand-stitching labels onto quilts - I'm hoping to post five quilts to various destinations tomorrow.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A porthole

I'm having a quilting break for the benefit of my back and shoulders, and thought I'd share a picture of one of the completed portholes from the other beach scene quilt - the one I was starting to quilt before this one took priority.

They were rather fiddly to put together and add (accurately) into the quilt top, but I'm delighted with they way they're turning out.

While I'm quilting sand and boats and oceans, it's the Centenary Opening Day at Henley Sailing Club, and Simon is down there with James and Eleanor and one of the boats. I prefer the fabric variety!


Sometime this afternoon, my blog clicked over the exciting 100,000 visits mark since I added the counter!

I was busy quilting at the time. There have been a few thread breakages, since my machine isn't too keen on quilting through the extra layer of interfacing - especially with the extra-fine 100wt thread I used at one point - it was the only thread I had  in the right colour that wasn't too heavy - I've added a better option to my wishlist now - I should have done that before, since I had the same problem the last time I was quilting the sky on a beach scene quilt!

I've gone with a different approach this time; insteasd of wavy lines, I've quilted a pattern in the sky which is supposed to resemble clouds in some abstract way, and a spirally swirl pattern in the open areas of water. I'm not completely sure about the clouds, but I am pleased with the swirls in the water.

Friday, 14 October 2011

The pot calling the kettle messy

When I'm selecting the fabrics for my beach scene quilts, I do create quite a mess. I need to be able to see every fabric, and because I use them multiple times, it would be a complete waste of time to refold each one every time, so I end up with masses of loosely-gatehred fabrics covering every available surface around my work area. But I thought it was a bit rich for James to come in and comment on the mess this morning! He clearly has forgotten just how bad his room was a while ago, and how long it took us (mostly me) to tidy it all properly! I, on the other hand, have not!

For the record, I finished the fabric selection before lunch, and the fabrics are now all neatly refolded and sorted back into their piles. The water prints (including the reef ones) fill an entire shelf in my cupboards - although I'm still on the lookout for more. The more I have, the easier it is to find the right piece for each spot, and finding a new range of water/ocean prints makes my day!

This evening I have pieced all the water sections, and joined them together; next up are the sun and the section of sand.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

At it again

On confirmation this afternoon, I jumped into fabric selection for another beach scene quilt while James and Eleanor were having a nap this afternoon. Umm.... no.... the last one insn't quilted yet!

I find it works really well to have my pattern taped to the wall - not only does it make it easy for me to see which sections meet where, but it allows me to pin the sections up as they're done (fabrics all selected, cut and pinned in place - no sewing yet) and view them critically from a little distance. I've already swapped one piece, and can see another which I'll think about and probably change tomorrow. This one is coming together nicely.

Someone asked after one of my recent posts about the interfacing I use for the foundations. It's not to prevent distortion (in fact, the stuff distorts far worse than any quilt fabric - even those cut on the diagonal!). It just provides the shape for me to cover with foundation piecing

Tomorrow we're off to the zoo, and in the evening I hope to finish the fabric selection and maybe even start on the piecing.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


This little art quilt is all finished and ready to post tomorrow.

It's a spring verison of my tree design, but I did a few things differently with this one.

I used a darker fairy frost for the leaves, which I'm really pleased with, and used the same one for the binding, instead of the stripe print I used last time. There are also a few more leaves and blossoms.

If I waited a few more days, I've be able to take photos of it in the tree that's just starting to blossom in our front garden; it blossoms later than most - after the leaves have appeared, just like the quilt! I've no idea what sort of tree it is though - there's never any sign of fruiting.

I love spring, and I rather miss the abundance of blossoming trees around Canberra; Adelaide's climate is more Mediterranean and we don't get such distinct seasons.