Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Side Serve

     Sometimes I'm just happy to fiddle with little projects on the side in between quilts.  Although, many of them seem to turn out to be projects as large as a quilt time wise.  I often spend hours thinking about how to 'do' the job too.  Then there's the collecting of materials and all the other planning and patterns etc.  Here's a recent project that definitely took me longer than expected.

Evening Purse

     This was a doozy.  Just the flower took me about four hours or maybe even five or six, I lost count.  What was I thinking?  I think know I need much more practice with the inktense pencils before I attempt painting this slubby silk again, or stick to painting on smooth fabrics.  As I'm one for a recycled component in most of my projects, I spent hours looking for the right beads and sequins on second hand clothing, what a dumb idea that was!  The consolation was a few good bargains and some fabrics for future projects.

     The second side serve for the month is a machine dust cover.  I think I got a bit carried away with the QAYG improvised log cabin.  This one took me a few days, but it was worth it, I now have the best dressed machine on the street!  Take a look 

So many pieces in such a small space

The finished piece.  This project is one of my sample pieces for a class I'm teaching early next year. 

A well dressed machine - brings cheer to the room

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Being Mobile

     There comes a time when one just has to knuckle down and do the jobs that should have been done yonks ago. (for non Aussies, this means a long time)  For me, that's to make a cutting mat and ruler carrier.  
     A few weeks back, I found myself in one of my favourite quilting shops (and don't we all love to be there if we're not in the sewing room?).  There was a little basket full of end of rolls so I just had to take a bit of a sticky.  Of course, as the story should go, I found a piece that I couldn't do without.  A range called Sunshine and Shadow  by Jane Sassaman for Free Spirit.


  It was the colours that did it for sure, just can't resist purple and green and anything that closely resembles this gorgeous contrast.  As long as the design is appealing, I'm in, boots and all.

Some of the other little gems I partnered with Coleus

     These projects are a great opportunity to play on the design wall.  That orange just had to go in the mix for a little bit of pop!  As this is a QAYG (quilt as you go), I was able to use the straight line contrasts as my joining pieces.  Some of them are slice and insert pieces as well.  

There is progress

After slicing and inserting, finished with the straight line quilting

     And the finished piece.

     Inside is a pocket for each of my rulers and a few wish pockets as well.  I also decided to add a few leaves of polyester batting as project pages.  It seemed to be the logical thing to add these so I didn't have to built a second one to carry samples etc. when I'm teaching.

     To keep the carrier firm and provide more protection in transit, I sourced some used For Sale boards (my recycled component for this project) from one of the local real estate agents.  It did the job perfectly, light weight and easy to cut.  

The inside of the carrier

      Some of the rulers in their place.  Each pocket is secured with hook and loop tape to hold them firmly in place.  A small pocket at the end provides a space for the roller cutter.  Two polyester batting pages hold various pieces of work.  And look, I do sew traditional stuff sometimes, but only when totally necessary! 

     Now I'm onto my next project and hope to finish it in a week or so.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Quilty Challenges

     I'm the sort of quilter person that loves a challenge, both personal and in the quilting community.  Its fun, and it always pushes me to expand my limits and extend into new skills and techniques that I perhaps would not have done without the parameters  of the challenge.  
     I guess the biggest challenge in resent years was to pack up our home of twenty seven years and make a new home over 600 kilometres away (not too many parameters there, only where we went).  Sadly, I had to leave my business there and consider my future direction here.  For once I saw sense and decided to go with something I already had experience with, and that was to rekindle my passion for sewing.  So now, I've renewed my sewing mojo.  I have the excitement I remember as a child embarking on a new project.  Back then, usually a dive into Mum's sewing cupboard and dragging out scraps to make a new rag doll or a dress for my Barby.  Now though, I have the advantage of nearly fifty years of sewing experience, it sure helps.  The great thing too, is I do it for pure pleasure and thats the best thing about all this change.  Better still, its all in the quilting community and I get to share this experience with so many wonderful people, whether they be beginner quilters or creative giants in this vast community.  I love it all and I'm now able to share this passion with so many people on so many levels.  That's where my teaching skills have also come in really handy.  
   Enough of the life challenges, here's a few of the quilting challenges I've undertaken in the last four years.  The first one was the challenge I set for myself,  making a quilt for 
Miss K for here 21st.  Of course, typical me, nothing too small, just a queen size quilt first up.  Obviously a time before knowing anything about non-traditional quilts.  I called it "Family Ties".  There are ten recycled ties in this quilt (the centre squares of each french braid),  having been collected from friends and family, and Miss K and my visits to many second hand clothing stores, hence the name.  Future challenge.........learn  new photography skills.

Miss K tells me it fits the bed better this way,
no tucking under required

     Then I discovered improvised cutting techniques.........

A challenge set - to make a table runner
- the first time I used a design wall and I
haven't stopped since.
Everyone should have one.

     "Reach For The Stars" was the next challenge. (make note to self, get a photo of the finished quilt)  This was constructed using foundation paper piecing.  I'm well practised now.  Many fabrics were given and we could add to the selection.

"Seven Sisters" - design roughly based on the
star constellation of the same name 

     Being a member of the Modern Quilters Guild, I had the opportunity to enter the 2014 Michael Miller Challenge.  Make an item using any or all of the six 1/8th's  distributed to each challenge participant.  Other fabrics could also be used.  I made a table runner called "Runner-way Pinwheels".  The fabric range is "Petal Pinwheels".

I used a technique learnt in a workshop
by Pam Furness

     Next on the challenge list was the NSW Quilters Guild "Mini Modern" challenge.  
A 40cm x 40cm quilt.  The trickiest part of this was to confine the design to the given size.  Try it, its really difficult to come up with a design that will be effective and successfully fit within the confines of that tiny size.  For many of us, big is beautiful.  In the end, I just literally cut the fabric free wheeling' it (remind me what a ruler is again?), and creating the quilt totally improvised by the whimsy of the time.

"Raindrops" - bonus - won viewers choice

     Last, but not least, the mug rug challenge.  Just a little bit of fun in our local quilting group.  Like when I was young, but this time going to my own sewing cupboard, I found this piece of fabric.  I'd wondered for years (twenty five to be precise), what I would do with it.  Its a piece of calico I printed in as a demo in a class I taught at TAFE.  We used gum leaves as a stamp to print with, really easy and fun technique.  This was an opportunity to practice free motion quilting.  You can view all the entrants on the NSWQG blog

It works well, there's been plenty of cuppas on this little
blast from the past

     So, with these challenges under my belt, I can suggest that you all partake in at least one challenge just for the experience.  If your local group puts one out there, go for it, participating is part of the experience too.  There's always an opportunity doing these, to learn something you may not have known before, and what's the harm in that? 

Monday, 17 November 2014


       Its been a while, but I hope this post will be worth the wait for you.  A few deadlines were looming and, you know how it is once the mind is set to task, there's no stopping the motion.  
         A few good friends grouped together in late September and went for a quilty weekend away.  We all set our own projects and I will share my project with you here.
     Have I told you I live in a great little place on the edge of Port Stephens, well I do, and I love going down to the waters edge and exploring.  There's  so much to see and observe.  Apart from the usual water, sand and forest habitat, the tidal flow is new to me.  The ebbs and flows bring new patterns and shapes to the sand every day, so this became the inspiration for my latest project.

Organic matter caught in the rills on the sand

Watermarks created with the lowering of the tide -
took me quite a while to figure out how the circles were formed
     On a trip to Canberra earlier this year, I picked up a few pieces of fabric to start with.  Over the  next few months I added to this until I had what I thought was enough, ha!  Silly me.  As I started planning out the design and measuring and then deciding to make it reversible, there was no way I had anywhere near enough fabric, so off I went and kept adding and adding and adding to now what seemed to be a massive pile of fabrics.  You know what, by the end of the project I still had to compromise a few times, but it all worked out in the finish.   Show me a quilt that doesn't experience changes on the way.  Well thats how I work anyway.  Fabrics collected, then it was washing day or rather days, so many.

I'm a washer - always have been, always will be

Unusually earthy colours for me

      Such a large size for the quilt, 100" x 94", quilting it on my domestic was not going to be easy so I went with quilt as you go.  Good decision.  Some blocks were whole piece with raw edge appliqué and some were improv cut and pieced.  I enjoyed the whole process and improved my quilting skills considerably (they needed to improve too).  Here's a few shots on the way.

Up on the design wall and well on its way

Auditioning fabric layout for a block

The same block after piecing and laid out for pinning

Little snippets of yellow were added - very necessary 

Pinned and ready to quilt

wavy water block on the edge of the sand

Measuring and trimming the blocks

Loads and loads of trimmings

Blocks joined and rolled - nice and easy to handle

Laying out the joined panels - this is when I got really excited
 - at this stage I was pleased I have a very large lounge room

Panels joined by adding extra strips and machined together 

Closer view of the quilting

Even more quilting - it seamed to go on for ever

And the quilt at home on the beautiful river red gum
bed Mr. G. built (he's so clever)

    That's not all though.  I'm very proud to say the quilt was awarded 1st place in the Modern/Mixed category of the Tilligery Art and Quilt Show on the weekend and then equalled with another quilt for the Viewers Choice award.  The most rewarding part of this was seeing it hung, showing the design as a whole and I'm extremely pleased with the end result.  Its way too big for me to display like this at home.  

Great to see what is shown here actually resembles 
 the idea I see in my head 

     This is my second large quilt this size and the first one was sent to a quilter.  The satisfaction I have in quilting it myself is priceless.  Does anyone else do large QAYG projects?  I've since started a new project with more practice using QAYG, so I'll have to post about that soon.  

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Birthday Treats

     I've had the loveliest time preparing some birthdays gifts for Miss K and Mr M.  It gave me the chance to have a break from a big project I'm working on, but that's a story for later.  Isn't it funny how we know what we need to sew and by when, and then, all of a sudden we're a few days out from the all important date and we've procrastinated or been diverted to other things and now realise this could be a close call to get the task done.  I made the time and now there are two happy people having received some hand made gifts.  

     For Mr M, I've made a bag from a recycled coffee sack, or burlap bag.  A local cafe roasts their coffee just a few streets away from where I live.  This is the best coffee; organically grown, supporting free trade opportunities for PNG villagers and low in caffeine.  This is where I got the design idea from http://www.designsponge.com , with just a few tweaks and the bag was made.

The front showing the bold brand printing and the reinforced suede fabric trim
The back showing the origin of the coffee

     I included a zipped internal pocket and the strap is made form cotton webbing.  The webbing was doubled in thickness by folding the two edges into the centre and stitching through all layers with a decorative stitch that would hold the edges firmly together.   Mr M was very happy with his new bag.

     Miss K's bag grew from a project we did together while she was caring for me after recent surgery.  I need to produce an appliqué with certain criteria for a project.  Miss K helped with the colour selection.  Having similar colour tastes, I was happy to use her selection.  At the time, she expressed her liking for the design, so like any sneaky  parent, filed that information in the memory bank for later.  Well, now is that time, and I eagerly pulled out the completed appliqué block and got to work.  A tote bag seamed to be the obvious thing to make; a twelve inch square is perfect for the job.  Hitting the stash pile and scrap bin, I came out with various greens (Miss K's favourite colour), and of course, some of the colours she had first selected for the project, so I could work these into the other side of the bag somehow.  Here's how the bag progressed:

The front with border, free motion quilting and straight line quilting

Improvised cutting and piecing of the back, a little quilting as you go 

Some free motion quilting

the almost completed back panel

Cane handles providing the 'Tropical' touch

The back panel in place and the bag successfully completed
     I must say I found the temptation to keep the bag almost overwhelming.  I'm very tempted to do it all again for myself, but that will have to wait.  As I said before, there is a much bigger project happening in the bowels of the sewing room right now and I'm beginning to get very excited about that too.  I see the light at the end of the tunnel, so now I'll have to gather the might to focus and complete it.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Testing 1-2-3

     Well that was a challenging morning.  I've been busy testing the pattern for Grandma's Cupboard quilt and oh what a job!  I now know another good reason to use improv cutting and piecing techniques.   This girl is definitely not a template and seam matching advocate.    After piecing this by machine, and what task that was, this will probably be a paper pieced and hand stitched project.  Did I just say that?  Oh well, I do need a hand stitching task to have when out and about.  Here's a few progress shots.

To give an idea of size - these are almost 2" square

Little by little, they're pieced together

Patience is beginning to wane

Not the perfect piecing job, but together in a fashion

Very finicky corners

At least there is some resemblance 

     Now, the task of looking for fabrics.  I've searched a few places where I thought I might find some similar fabrics, but without success.  Here's the brainwave of the day - get the fabric printed of course.  Now all I need to do is the art work (gasp).  Easier said than done.  Something else for me to explore over the next few days.  Has anyone had their own fabric designs printed yet?  How did it go?

     There hasn't been an idle moment since my last post.  Apart from this mornings activities, I've quilted a few things that have been laying around underfoot.  To rid my consience of guilt for incomplete projects, I got to work and.............

Testing my 'What's All The Fuss?' quilt pattern with a
 different colour for border and sashing 

 'Tidepool' bali-pop
      I'm always excited, but not surprised, to see the results of using different colours for sashing and borders and what a difference it can make to the finished look of a quilt.  There are two more examples of this quilt on my 'It's what I do' page.

     ...............and then there is this one.  A baby quilt using stitch and flip piecing technique just to use up some left overs from another baby quilt.  

I just love the colours in this fabric

Folded and all ready to go
  This is a fabric by Michael Miller called 'Pretty Bird'.  It's is the first time I've used zigzag to finish the quilt edge binding.  It was a little more difficult to control the 'fluting' on the edge, but I got there in the end and I'm pleased with the result.  Now its off to the Goldcoast for a new little Nutt.