Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Paris quilted

Kayscha certainly challenged me this time, with an 86 x 110in quilt for her daughter's bed!

Although I am very happy with my Bernina 820, I do think there are some aspects of quilting, especially of very large quilts, which long-arm machines on frames are much better equipped to handle.

I got the outer borders out of the way first this time, with the 3/4 circle feathers I described over a few posts while I was quilting them.

Next I quilted the feathered circles and added the details to the centres. The central Arc de Triomphe is shown above.

Around the Arc are eight Eiffel Towers. After much deliberation, I chose to quilt clouds in the space around the towers. It was too big to leave unquilted, and most of the other options detracted from the feature motif, including one version which looked ok until I quilted it and got promptly unpicked - it made them look like power transmission lines! The clouds work nicely with the grey background. Each of the eight has different clouds.

Although it doesn't show in photos, the towers are quilted in heavier, glossy white thread which give plenty of definition, and the clouds are quilted in a fine grey, which blends into the fabric, leaving just the texture.

The remaining feathered wreaths have a simple fleur de lis in the centre.

I then filled all the rest of the centre with a flexible swirly design which is quite good at easing in fullness where necessary. That just left the pin border, which I knew would need reasonably dense quilting to get it to lie flat. I started by scalloping the edges, which is a great way to quilt seams which are determined not to lie quite straight or flat. I then marked hearts at intervals along the border (starting with a few smaller ones at the top) and pebbled the border, leaving the hearts unquilted for a bit of texture. These tie in nicely with the hearts in the feature print.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Quilting up a storm

Last night I got busy and took some photos, them sandwiched the quilt and appliqued/quilted the palm trees and quilted all the sky before I finally crawled into bed. It had been raining most of the night, and then the thunder started with an enormous crash that I thought would wake James and Eleanor.

It's stormy again tonight, so I've decided to turn the machine off and have an early night rather than risk running it.

These photos are all prior to quilting. I love the way the palm tree print sits behind the appliqued palm trees.

One of the fish in the photo above is appliqued - can you tell which? The flash blew out the colours quite badly and I corrected them in Photoshop as much as possible, but this section still doesn't look quite right. I always find the water hardest to colour-match, and it's worse when I have to use flash.

I hope to get loads of quilting done tomorrow, and might finally get around to editing and sharing photos of the Paris quilt, too. Tuesdays are terrific!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Paris and palms

The big Paris quilt is all done and I'll share photos tomorrow. For the last few evenings I've been madly piecing the beach scene, and tonight I've been appliqueing. The top itself is basically done, except the water is not yet joined to the sand and sky - while I'm appliqueing pieces to both, it's easiest to keep the background piece as small as possible. I added what I could to the beach (most of the applique details are on the beach, though there is a pair of hot air balloons in the sky, and an extra boat and fish in the water section) before joining it to the sky. But now I'm working on making a few palm trees which will overlap both, so I had to join them.

All the fusible web for the palm trunks and fronds I managed to cut from my bag of scrap pieces, which is always satisfying (and why they look to be such odd shapes!). They're all fused to the green and brown fabrics now, and I'm cutting the fiddly leaf shapes. I'll position and sew them on when I'm fresh in the morning.

Then, once the water is sewn to the sand I have a few more appliques to put on - they're too close to the shoreline to risk putting on first.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Sitting central among the eight Eiffel Towers on this quilt, and the 13 fleurs de lis, is a single Arc de Triomphe.

I found a sharp, straight-on image, then edited it to remove colour and further define the lines, printed it at the size I needed to fit into the feather wreath, then traced the lines I wanted to quilt. Then I traced it onto the quilt top. I chose to represent the main sculptures at the front with some feathers.

I think it's rather fitting that the arch in the middle of the enormous, busy Parisian roundabout is also in the middle of this enormous Paris-themed quilt.

This quilt is all but complete now, and I'm about to move back to the beach scene.

Friday, 13 June 2014


Having replaced the errant too-dark piece in the beach scene layout, I'm letting the whole thing sit on the design board for a few days to consider it thoroughly, and in the meantime returning to feathered circles. I only have 2 more to do now, then I'll move on the the background and remaining border before I finally fill in the circles around the motifs.

These Eiffel Towers have been both fun and fiddly to quilt. I actually wrote this last night, but it somehow remained as a draft. The feathered wreaths are now all done and I'm working my way through the background.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

On the design board

It's times like these I wonder how I ever coped for so long without a design board. It's far from ideal, yet still invaluable.
I've been continuing to build up this beach scene today.

I thought I'd  share a sequence as I remembered to take photos at various stages.

The main advantage of the design board is being able to position all the sections easily. But an important secondary benefit is the chance to see how all the pieces interact from a distance. This is best done with photos; anomalies show up better on 'film'.

Once all the pieces are laid out, I find it best to let them sit for a day or so, frequently looking at both the actual design board and the photos. I can already see one piece which will have to be replaced. You can probably pick it, too. It's a red and white fish on a dark water background near the centre. I did try to blend the water with the surrounding pieces, but in reality it's just too dark to be that high in the water. I really wanted that specific fish, but it's so fiddly, it's just not practical to cut it out and applique it, so I'll find another.

Once I finished the water, I selected the fabrics to create the graduated sunset sky. My customer has requested palm trees, and while I will also add some appliqued ones to the beach, I thought the palm print would be a fun addition to the sky. Again, I'll let them sit there for a little while to be sure they're right before cutting the pieces I need.

It's fun seeing the quilt come together without having sewn a single stitch yet

Thursday, 5 June 2014


To try and manage my headaches, I've been working on 2 quilts simultaneously; the quilting job which isn't great on my neck and shoulders, and a new beach scene. Interspersed with the quilting, I've been drafting the design and preparing the foundations. But now that quilt's at the fabric selection stage... well, it's taking centre stage and not leaving room for much else!

This evening I worked right across the bottom of the quilt, building the reef base. This is the slowest part of the fabric selection, because there are so many colours and elements to blend together. Tomorrow evening should see the water level rise to the beach, and then I have what is effectively a 5-day weekend to bring the quilt to life.

Once the fabrics are selected, sewing them to the foundations is a relatively quick job. It's also a very rewarding one, as I see the careful positioning and cutting pay off.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Fitting in feathers

Yesterday I mentioned my method of fitting in the last few feathers in my feathered wreath, given they're all quilted free-hand. So here's a bit of a photographic tutorial:

Here the inner circle is quilted, and I'm about to start the feathers. You can just see the outer circle, but the marks are fading.
Now I've quilted the first few feathers. Note that they're not marked in any way. They're not going to be identical, but the overall effect is one of consistency.

Now I'm approaching the start of the feathers again; there's space for about 5 more plumes, so it's time to stop and get out the marker.

I roughly mark the size of the tips of the feathers, starting from the beginning and working back  towards the feather I've just quilted. These marks are for size only, and I have no intention of actually quilting along them.

You can see here that I've got back up the the last quilted feather, and conveniently for the purposes of this tutorial, there's only room for about half a plume left.

To 'fix' this, my plan is to adjust the size of my plumes a little smaller so they slowly get closer to matching the positioning of the marks. The difference in size won't be noticeable once the wreath is finished.

My first plume is goes almost halfway across the marking.

The second plume is a similar size,but only goes perhaps a third into the next marking.

By the time I get back to the first feather, they almost match the markings (which I remarked for this photo so they're more visible).

Unfortunately this doesn't show my neatest feather shapes, but you can kind of see that I've ended up with the feathers all of a similar size, instead of finishing with one huge or tiny plume which looks out of place. Viewed as a whole, the feathered wreath looks consistent.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

More crockery and feathers

Today I started quilting the feathered wreaths in the open blocks of this quilt. Once again, I dug through my crockery cupboards for plates the right size - one to just fit inside the central grey square and one to fit just inside the outer white square. then it was just a case of centring the plates, drawing around them with the air-erasable marker, and quilting.

I start by quilting along the inside circle, then quilt the feathers out from that, just touching the outer circle. When I get maybe 5 or 6 feathers from the beginning, I roughly draw in just the outer bumps of the last few feathers, going back from the start point towards where I'm up to. This allows me to judge whether I need to fractionally stretch or squash these few feathers so they meet nicely, without the last one being an ugly huge or tiny one. I'll try and remember to take some photos of that stage tomorrow, as there are plenty more wreaths to go.

Later I'll go back and add some fill around the fleur de lis. I'll use a fine grey BottomLine thread, but haven't decided just how I'll do it yet.