Sunday, 29 April 2012

Lots of filigree

I haven't even started filling the borders yet, but the body of the quilt is coming along well. I've been having a bit of trouble with small birds' nests forming under the quilt, mainly where I'm doing the small filigree work. I've tried changing all sorts of settings incrementally, but haven't yet hit on the solution. I'd be interested to hear any suggestions. Update - an oil and a slight reduction in the bobbin tension seems to have doen the trick.

I'm going through a heap of thread; luckily I chose a colour I have plenty of. On the white areas of the blocks I've used white, and for the rest I'm using aqua, which is the best compromise on the dark teal and the apple green - it shows up enough to make the quilting work, but not too much. In the border, where I've already double outline-quilted the triangles with the walking foot, I'll be alternating white (for the inwards-pointing triangles) and the aqua (for the outwards-pointing triangles). I'm hoping this will add more interest to the quilting, by adding a secondary pattern - the triangles will go right across the three different coloured borders.


I don't think I have the patience or the stamina to quilt the way I want! I love the results, imperfect though they may be. But I can't believe how much there is still to go! My shoulders and neck are in revolt! And I'm revising my border quilting plan - madly trying to think of something which won't take quite as long. This isn't a show quilt I'm working on, just a magazine project, and think common sense needs to take hold! On the other hand, it does feel good to be quilting like this. All I can say is I'm glad it's only lap size! Oh, and that I'm glad I chose a solid backing, so my all work really shows!

This is the main part of each block; I haven't done any of the quilting around this one yet. Looking at it now, I realise it's the one block where I made a mistake in the quilting. Oh, well!

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Whatever Otto did to my 820 last week, it definitely did the trick! I've been FMQing with BottomLine, and it's close to perfect, even though this time I'm quilting through a double layer of batting. It's also meant I have been able to set aside the BSR foot, since I wasn't using the BSR feature anyway, and am using the regular open toe free motion foot. It has much better visibility without the BSR unit in the way.

I really wanted to jump into the fun quilting on this quilt (peek above and below), but after doing some background fill, I realised I'd better do some of the ditch and stabilising work next, before the quilting shrunk it and puffed-up the other areas too much. I'm only marking it bit by bit, as I'm using the air-erasable marker and have no intention of needing to mark anything twice! I'm really only marking the structural lines; everything else is freehand.

The colours in these area bit off - teal in particular is hard to get right. Having photographed it under lights, it's almost impossible (for me) to comepletely correct.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Accidental double batting

Well, not quite, but it wasn't exactly planned, either!

I'd almost finished piecing another quilt top when Simon took the ironing board this evening. Given he was actually going iron the family's clothes, I didn't object, but I couldn't proceed with piecing without pressing, so I went back to finalise a quilting design. I got far enough that I was ready to start on it, so I got ready to sandwich the quilt. I prefer to use a wool/cotton batting, and for the last few years have been buying it by the bolt, but had a piece of 100% cotton batting lying around from ages ago. I often check if it's the right size for what I'm doing, and so far it never has been. But today it was inch-perfect in both length and width. Only I found it was a bit thinner than the wool/cotton, and given I have plans to do some special quilting, I didn't want it it disappear due to the thin batting. So I'm countering the advantages of finding the perfect sized quilt for the batting, and doubling-up; the cotton plus a layer of the wool/cotton blend. On the plus side though - the end of my roll of batting was also just the right length!

I've not done this before, and it only occurred to me as I was finishing pin-basting the four layers, that I think I've only seen it done by long-arm quilters. It will be interesting to see how this goes. My quilting design is inspired by the style of Judi, of Green Fairy Quilts fame. I'm also trying out the air-erasable pens which she uses. However, I'm under no illusions, it's not as intricate as her quilting, it won't be as perfect, and I won't be putting in the massive amount of hours that she does. But I'm looking forward to doing it.

I've got the structure worked out, and have determined how I'm going to fill a lot of the spaces, but a few spaces will have to wait until the rest is done for inspiration to strike. As much as I want to fill some of them with feathers, I suspect feathers won't quite suit - but for now the very idea is precluding other ideas, so I'll get on with what I can.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


In the last couple of days, I've seen two of my designs made up by other quilters - a really rewarding experience. Both have graciously allowed me to share their quilts here.

First up was this dramatic colourway of Andrea's Dream from AP&Q:

Kym is a longarm quilter from Queensland, and has quilted her version beautifully as a show entry. Kym is still in the process of setting up her website, but do go and have a look - especially those of you in the Bundaberg region. I came across this really by chance; Kym and I happen to have a mutual friend on facebook, and she recognised my name (ooh, another thrill!) when we were both commenting on a photo.

Then that evening, I received an email from Lori, whose daughter had found and bought my Winter Harvest tree pattern. At the very end of my patterns, I invite quilters to send me photos of what they've made using them, and Lori was the first to accept:

She and her daughter made this gorgeous version together, and personalised it, not only with their own colour choices and extra leaves, but also in the quilting. As well as including details of the baby it is for, there are birds in the tree, butterflies in the border, and even a squirrel and a rabbit. I love it!

Thank you to Kym and to Lori and Jamie for sharing your quilts!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Space to avoid pinning

I hate pinning! I avoid it wherever I can. And when I'm sewing 300 identical seams, I love the space in the 820 to position the pairs of pieces and lay them out, so I can chain-piece and just slide the next one over to the needle when I'm ready for it. In as few 'batches' as possible - efficiency and all that...

The quilt top I'm working on has exactly 1000 pieces. I sewed the 600 white triangles to the 300 coloured triangles in two (long!) steps - separated by (very long!) sessions with the iron (also done production-style). I've also joined the sets of triangles, and added the 100 white rectangles and am starting to combine the units into complete blocks.

The other night I had meant to piece, but I spent the evening with my feet up and a good book, with Shadow curled asleep in my lap for hours. The following day I had meant to tidy, but pieced instead. What do I need to plan to do to actually get around to the housework? A dinner party on Sunday - resulting in a day of flat-panic housework for everyone to make up for everything we've delayed!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Confession time

Back when I was making Andrea's Dream, I initially pieced the twelve small stars the wrong size. I got as far as the quarter units (below), then realised my mistake.

I tossed them aside as they were and quickly remade them (the deadline was tight as it was, without silly mistakes!). But I always planned to make use of them someday - no point wasting the lovely snowflake fabric, or the time that went into making them. A while ago I played with some design options for using them - I wanted something quite different from the original quilt. And yesterday I did it. I've added a light and a dark turquoise to the red, lime and white. The top is complete and ready for quilting - after I piece at least some of the 900 triangles mentioned in my last post. It's destined again for AP&Q, but I'll show some peeks along with the quilting - I will mull over quilting ideas while chain-piecing those triangles.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Cutting, sewing, talking...

I filled the few hours I was without my sewing machine the other day by cutting. I'd already cut 600 white HSTs and 100 white rectangles; now I have 300 of these coloured QSTs to add to the mix - and a lot of piecing to do. I hadn't quite realised how many pieces were going to be in the quilt - all you really 'see' in the design is the coloured triangles!

While I cut, James sewed - and talked (incessantly!). Eleanor spent that day (and night) at my parents', so it was a good opportunity for him to work on her quilt. It only needs one more seam to complete the centre of the top, then we have the border to add. He's doing almost everything himself; he chose the fabrics, helped design the layout, and does all the pinning and sewing (with some assistance) and even the pressing (with more assistance). He'll sandwich it when the time comes, and we'll probably quilt it together. I'm not ready to set him loose with the rotary cutter though!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Gardens Meet

Yesterday I got an early copy of Australian Patchwork & Quilting Vol 21 No 5, which includes my quilt The Gardens Meet as a project.

I designed this quilt to use some of my favourite fabrics from Sandi Henderson - the Henna Garden print, and a few from Secret Garden - hence the name. The only exception is the white background (from Basic Grey's very popular Figgy Pudding a couple of years ago).

This quilt comes together really quickly, because of the big pieces. It looks more complicated than it is, but you do have to be careful to get the right fabrics in the right places, or the effect is lost.

I tend to get a bit challenged when coming up with simple quiting, because I often use high contrast farics - e.g. black or white backgrounds, then don't want to spoil the contrast with a single thread, which rules out allover quilting.

I quilted this one in the ditch, all around the lattice - this took a while, and a few stops and starts. I kind of followed the edges randomly, then had to spend a while making sure I hadn't missed any - much easier done from the back if the backing is fairly plain.

Then I got out my thick tracing paper and drew out swirl desgins to fit the different spaces. However, the quilting is completely unmarked; I just stuck the patterns on the wall by my sewing machine and quilted them freehand.

I quilted the white x shapes below so they're symmetrical form the centre - but unless you know that, I now think it  just looks as though I quilted them haphazardly, since the swirls vary in direction (going 'in', ' going 'out', or facing left or right!) considerably!

Because it doesn't show, I quilted the busy setting triangles with a stipple. All the quilting was done with Superior BottomLine. Speaking of which, my new machine had a visit to the dealer's yesterday, and should now quilt much better with BottomLine and other fine threads - I can't wait to test it out, but I need to do some piecing first.

For now, this quilt is in a large pile on my shelf. I do have a possible destination for it, but I'm not entirely sure yet, so if you are interested in buying it; leave me a comment.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Make a Wish

I realised earlier this week, that of my nine finishes for the year so far, I'd only properly blogged three! So I'm remedying that with a few I have recently photographed - although a couple will continue to remain under wraps until they are revealed in Australian Patchwork & Quilting throughout the year.

This particular quilt has been a long time in the making. Or perhaps that should read 'waiting'. I designed it ages ago for Eleanor, then on realising it wouldn't match her wall quilt, decided to make it for my niece instead. I then designed the matching teddy quilt (below - which got made ages ago!). Meanwhile, Eleanor is still waiting for her own bed quilt, and is using one I made when she was a baby.

I ended up simplifying the piecing a little from the original design, to leave space for more quilting - mainly feathers.

My original layout had no unpieced blocks and something like 700 more pieces! The change was a definite improvement in more ways than one!

Apart from the white background which is a snowflake print from my stash, the fabrics are all from Patty Young's Flora & Fauna line.

I really like the octagonal feature blocks, and will probably use them again in a different setting.

I used a similar style of quilting to the teddy quilt, but not exactly the same.

It was difficult maintaining even quilting consistency across the top while leaving the octagons unquilted, and not over-doing the quilting; it's to be used on a bed, so I wanted it reasonably soft and snuggly.

The border quilting was my biggest challenge, and I'm really pleased with the feathers and arcs on the grey spots.

I also really like the free-hand feathers in the outer border, but I'm kind of disappointed I resorted to stippling the green border!

I left the red border unquilted, but all the borders are quilted in the ditch, so it's well stabilised, and I like the smoothness of the unquilted space.

I marked the feather spines only. I quilt from the bottom up on my feathers, so I stop at the start when the first side is done and start again at the bottom for the second side. I also quilt each plume separately. Occasionally I try the bump method, but I generally prefer the results of my own quilting this way.

The photo below shows the whole back. I used a charcoal tone-on-tone wideback, and matchched the bobbin thread to the top thread, so the back shows white, silvery-grey and lime green.

I used BottomLine in the bobbin for the whole quilt and a combination of BottomLine and white Guterman 50wt cotton on the top.

We delivered this quilt to my niece this afternoon. Despite the fact that she'd just had a long nap, she jumped straight underneath it as soon as it was placed on her bed and was more than a little reluctant to get out. This quilt is one of my favourites, and I think it can be counted as a success as a gift, too!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Glammed-up for DQS12

I finally got around to editing the photos of my DQS12 quilt to  show the true colours. Quilts with a lot of dark fabric can be a challenge to photograph!

(Finished size: approx 18in square)
To ensure I met the swap requirements, I pieced 8 of the drunkards-path blocks. Although technically, only 4 are traditional blocks, and the other eight I decided it was better not to add extra (unnecessary)seams into the navy solid, and pieced the print onto larger sections of the solid.
(fully pieced but unquilted)

I loved my plan for this quilt, but it didn't come out quite as well as I'd envisioned. I think it would have been better with more, smaller blocks.That said, I'm still pleased with how it came out. And frankly, I have no desire to piece smaller curves!

I chose a different filler pattern for each of the wholecloth clamshells. The filigree is definitely my  favourite.

I  quite like the feathers, too.

The printed sections are selectively quilted along the pattern in matching threads- just enough to stop them bagging-out. That way they provide wonderful texture contrast - I may have floated my fingertips across the quilt surface more than once or twice!

The print is from Paula Nadelstern's 'Patternista' and the binding is 'Deja vu', also by Paula.

Threads: background is navy BottomLine (by Superior), coloured clamshells are Rainbows (variegated trilobal poly, also from Superior) and the top clamshell is silver holgraphic Glitter (again, Superior!)

Hopefully now this little quilt is well on its way to its overseas destination...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Ariana's Owls

My lovely cousin had a baby girl over Easter, and this afternoon we sent this quilt off to her. The fabrics were an easy choice, because I know she loves owls, although I can't say I'm completely satisfied with the overall colour scheme. My initial plan had been for blues and pinks, but somehow I forgot to take into consideration that the 'blues' had a lot of greens and aquas as well, and the 'pinks' had a lot of orange/yellow/peach. Lesson learned!

I was still stuck for a name for this quilt yesterday, so I asked James and Eleanor. They're quite taken with the little girl's name, hence their choice. They also like the fact that little Ariana also has the same middle name as me (for the curious - it's Louise).

I hope they like the quilt, and that Ariana gets plenty of use from it. It's mostly Valori Wells' 'Bliss' flannels and is beautifully soft and snuggly. I used a flannel backing too - which meant it was quite a job to cram it into the satchel at the post office this afternoon - where I was busily posting five quilts as the doors closed at 5pm!

I noticed as I was editing the photos that once again, I didn't get it quite straight on the wall, which is really frustrating, as I know it's properly squared. I  have plans to get some large boards to use for photos, which I want to mark with a grid to avoid distorting them. I also want to be able to pin the quilts to it, instead of going through miles and miles of double-sided tape. I've found a product at the hardware store which might work, but with the sheets at 1200 x 2400mm, I'll need Simon to bring them (I need 2 to accomodate wider quilts and will tape them together) home on the trailer. It's not a perfect product (I think it's plaster board, and it's a bit thin, and not overly easy to get the pins in, plus there's a risk of it crumbling - but at least it's cheap if it doesn't work out!) Ideally I want something foam-like (but still stiff to stand up vertically for photos) and about an inch thick to work properly with the pins - but a higher priority is the size - I don't want to need more than 2 to accommodate large bed quilts. Any suggestions welcomed.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter = chocolate and quilting

This evening James finished piecing the half-square triangles and pressed them. Then he followed the pattern to lay out all the pieces to his quilt top. he did remarkably well, managing to work out the corresponding fabrics to the somewhat different fabrics on the pattern I created for him in EQ7, and orienting the blocks correctly.

We've been experiencing a chocolate dessert overload here. I found a small chocolate recipe book the day we arrived, and the last 2 nights we've had Strawberry, hazelnut (and chocolate) gateau:

and Raspberry brownie and icecream cake (a wonderful combination of gooey warm chocolate brownie and rapidly melting raspberry icecream):

Simonsurprised us by taking an extra (and much-needed) day off work, so we get one more day of the long weekend. It's been too windy most days so far, so tomorrow the boys are heading out fishing at the crack of dawn. If I get on a roll tonight, that'll only be an hour or two after I get to bed! I've not achieved as much as I'd hoped so far, but I have caught up on a heap of sleep.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Gum blossoms and an oops!

We're enjoying the long Easter weekend at Port Hughes with Simon's parents as usual. And as usual, I've brought a selection of quilt projects and my sewing machine. Below are some gum blossoms cut from red fabric pre-fused to lite Steam-a-seam2. I cut rough ovals to start with, then snipped into them.

After positioning them, I free-motion appliqued them in place, using a zigzag pattern, roughly going up and down each spike in a variegated pink thread, than filling in a few of the gaps. Then I swapped to a lightly-variegated yellow thread to colour the centre. All this was done prior to sandwiching, then at the quilting stage, I free-motioned a zigzag around the outside again, using red BottomLine.

The photo above is before quilting.

After the applique was done, I trimmed the centre to size and added the border - 4in (finished) squares cut from the four gumnut babies fabrics.

I'm well through the quilting now; I've accentuated the tree by quilting closely around it in a perfectly-matching, but slightly darker King Tut thread, then filled around it with a swirl pattern. Below is what happened while I was stippling the border! Obviously, it was only through the glove. I don't let my fingers quite that close, but the side of the glove was being pushed away from my finger by the direction I was moving the quilt. Luckily, I caught it on the first stitch, and (after calling for the camera and having a good laugh) was able to slide my hand out, then use the handwheel the wind it backwards and 'undo' the stitch, then resume stitching without breaking thread!

While I've been working on my quilt, James has made a start on sewing his. I decided it was time to challenge him a bit and incorporate some half-square triangles into this design. He pinned the triangles together at home last week, and has started sewing them together.

I actually ended up bringing both sewing machines with us for the long weekend; here he is set up by the powerpoint next to the kitchen island. He's limited in his sewing time, as he doesn't want Eleanor to see (it's going to be a present for her birthday), so I'm staggering their naps when I can.