Sunday, 20 December 2015

Quiltcon Entry

This is the first time I have entered Quiltcon, or at least put three quilts up for jury entry.
Here's a preview of the three quilts.

- Red Back -
So this is the first, and appropriately titled 'Red Back', all the Aussies will understand. It's made up of one inch strips and each alternate one is pieced in a different way. The quilting is one eighth of an inch apart and the red is stitched using #8 perle, hand wound onto the bobbin and worked from the wrong side. It has given wonderful texture to the piece.

- A closer inspection -

Here's #2 quilt for contention. Some of you may have already met this quilt in person at the Sydney Quilt Show. She did me proud. The construction of this one is done by QAYG. Definitely one of my favourite techniques. The quilting seems a bit simple, but then, it is a minimalist design.

- Boxed In -

- A closer look - 

Last but not least is this play on a classic. This was made by first, making a piece of fabric using 6', 4' and 3' blocks in combinations of grey and white, then cutting out the larger pattern pieces from the new cloth. I was really happy with the interesting shapes that occurred across the new fabric. The churn dash blocks are quilted with a double layer of batting and I've only emphasised the grey outlines with stitching and this has created very interesting texture across the quilt. I love how some of the white shapes pop out and are different to the original churn dash design of the first cloth made. 

- Self Image -

- Circular quilting resinating from the central image -

So now that you've seen them, one of these quilts was select to be in Quiltcon. Can you pick which one?

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Baby Quilts

Its so much fun making baby quilts. Here's one I recently finished and can now post about because it should have already arrived at its intended recipient.  

-  Turkish Delight - 
So this is how I test a lot of my quilt designs without too much fear of the whole project going belly up and making a complete mess of things (and of course, the expense of the quilt too, needs to be considered). 

- Strippy Bliss -
And this is how I did it. I had a few scrappy blocks orphaned from a class sample, so I stripped a few more and cut and stripped and cut until I was happy with the new look. Then it was off to the design wall.

- Design Taped onto the Design Wall -
Mapping out the size first gives the guidelines needed for designing and in particular, proportion.

- It's like playing with paper and glue -

It's such an easy way to get everything right without having to predetermine any sizes of fabric pieces to cut. Just remember to allow for seams. 

- Almost done with the designing - 

After this stage its just a matter of filling in the spare spaces. Breaking up the negative space into rectangles makes the job a lot easier.

- Quilting Fun -
Just to try something a little different, I fitted a wonky border. All the quilting was done on my lovely new Sweet Sixteen.

- Striped Binding -

- Every quilt needs a teddy -

- The quilt is now in the arms of Ava (born 25.10.2015) -

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Arthritis and Quilting/Sewing

Many of us suffer with ailments of one sort or another that interferes with what we love to do. In many cases, there is no need to stop our favourite past time, just change the way  things are done. Over the last few years I've had to change a lot. Arthritis has virtually rendered my thumbs useless. Yes, there's many things I'd like to do but I've had to be realistic and accept those things can no longer be part of my skills set. Here's a few things I've put in place to help me continue quilting and sewing so that there's much less pain to endure at the end of a busy day.

Anything that takes pressure off the thumbs is good. A machine with a thread cutting mechanism is essential. Another digit can use this tool and there's no need to grab the scissors. The opening and closing of said scissors is something I really need to avoid. Occasionally they need to be used, so I have a pair of spring loaded scissors to make the job of trimming and snipping easier. A pair of the lightest(weight) scissors are sometimes the only things that can be used for a few jobs.

I use a knee lever to lift the machine foot - just the best. All the hand strain of lifting the foot with the lever is gone, yeah! So much easier too, when having to manipulate my work under the machine foot, a quick flick of the knee and it's done. Many modern machines have a foot lifter button.

Quilting gloves - got to have them. Gloves adorn my hands almost every time I sew. With limited gripping power in those thumbs, this enables me to grip fabrics and makes manoeuvrability of projects so much easier.

This cute little light weight iron does heaps of work for me. I'm able to cup my hand over the top dome and glide it easily over fabrics and seams. No more heavy irons for me.

With preparing projects, an AccuQuilt Cutter does some of the work. Otherwise, I use a Foundation Paper Piecing technique that eliminates paper tearing and I only need to cut pieces as I work rather than, as usually practiced, all at once at the beginning of a project.
Another great alternative is Quilt As You Go. I vary the QAYG techniques each project, depending on how I've designed the piece, and what construction best suits the project. Even with QAYG, I usually only cut what I need at the moment, as I improvise many of my projects.

One of my favourite improvised QAYG projects; my ruler bag. It has batting pages inside too, to hold blocks I'm working on or samples I may need for a class. 
Pins are another item I seldom use. This project sure didn't see too many. I have pins with the biggest pinheads of all time, some of them measuring up to 1/2cm in diameter just in case I do need to use them. Quilt As You Go also prevents having to use some sort of pins for the quilt sandwich. I love spray basting. Small or large projects, they all get the spray treatment. Anywhere that I can substitute glue for pins is the go for me. On binds, I use binding and hem clips. These can be opened and closed using fingers rather than thumbs. 

Here's a few projects I've done that use either QAYG or FPP or both.

These projects vary in size from 150cm square to 56cm square. The largest QAYG I've done is a whopping 240cm square; and while it gets large at the end of the project, because I designed it, I can control the amount of quilt that will have to be managed inside the harp area of the machine. Hence, much less pressure on the thumbs trying to manipulate the quilt and lugging it from side to side and around about while quilting.

I've done trials on pre-washing and not, and I've definitely come to the conclusion that I'm a pre-washer. Where is this leading? Well, I have to tell you about these amazing pegs too. THEY ARE HUGE! There's no need for any pinching to open them, and they are just push on. They are big enough that I use the open palm of my hand to push them, and to remove, I just have to grab them with my fist and pull up. No thumb work required. Although washing is not my favourite task (and you need to see a doctor if it's yours), these little babies allow me to get through it without inducing more pain. Seeing as I'm a committed pre-washer, thats got to be good. 

I hope this will help and encourage others to continue their craft. It's often not a case of having to stop, just change the way we do things. Sure, sometimes there are limitations, but they can also lead to some great places where we wouldn't have otherwise travelled. In my case, I've gone back to teaching where I'm able to help others learn techniques that are less strenuous for their bodies. 

Should anyone reading this know of other little tidbits about coping with arthritis and quilting, let me know, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Surprise Winning

Two weeks ago it seemed all the planets aligned just for me. When filling out an entry form for quilting competitions, I never think about winning anything. It's enough just to have my entry accepted and then to see it amongst all the other splendid quilts on display. It seems I did everything right for one of my entries into the Sydney Quilt Show. My quilt is the recipient of first place in the Red and White Contemporary/Art category. I'm still in a buzz over the news.

This is the finished quilt ready for its hanging sleeve.

It all began with humble beginnings on a weekend retreat. Up until then it was just a drawing I'd done in Touch Draw on my iPad. I love that app. As you can see, it was put together bit by bit using a quilt as you go method. I also love QAYG.

Often, a round was pieced first, then added, following basically a log cabin construction. I also love log cabin in all its beautiful variations. 
A design board makes this work so much easier. When I go on a retreat, I take with me a makeshift design wall. It's one of those cardboard pattern boards covered with a flannelette sheet and strung between two dowel rods held in place by alligator clamps. Works a treat every time.

Back at home now and getting close to the end. Looks like I didn't achieve much on the weekend, but at least all the quilting was being done during construction, all straight line with walking foot. Did I tell you I love QAYG? The good thing is once you're done, you're done. And, if everything goes to plan, there's often no need to square anything up. That also depends on the method too. Keeping those quilting lines straight does get a bit tricky towards the end.

After having received my award there just had to be a photo beside her with said award certificate. Matching shoes too. 

It was an absolutely fantastic display of workmanship across the whole exhibition. I'm very proud to be a winner in such a prestigious event. There seemed to be so many more artists deserving of the same accolades. I wish them all well with their future entries. I'll be back next year and I would encourage everyone participate, even if you're a beginner. You never know what might eventuate, after all, this was only my second time entry. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Quilt Rack

Some of us might put our finished quilts away in a cupboard so they don't  become ravaged by light, bugs, children and pets (unless you have a sneaky cat that will find your quilts no matter where you try to hide them). Me, I like to put them on show. I'm proud of what I do and I love all the colour they provide. They're extremely handy on chilly evenings too, or if I'm in need of a snuggle up (usually watching a good movie or two).

Mr G and I had a little construction session last weekend and ended up with a quilt rack. I posted a photo on Face Book. Now, with the extraordinary response to that, I'll show you what we did and give you some measurements if you have the inclination to do one for yourself.

The item in question fitted with said quilts

After recent violent storms we were lucky enough to have a huge amount of building material to select from. This is green timber (eucalyptus species - hard wood) much easier to work with when its green than when its dry. You'll need to research how to work with green timber if you haven't used it before, there are a few tricks and I'll leave it to the experts to give you the tips. The key to the success of the rack is to select reasonably straight timber, but still have enough shape to add interest and to be able to fit each piece into place. A tip when collecting your timber, you'll need twice as much as you think you do, because of the variations in shape of each piece. Select timbers approximately 40mm in diameter. 

Measurement and construction guide

Here's a few more photos to help with construction.

The ends of each 'stick' were bevelled before we started construction.
I use a shave horse and draw knife. It can also be done using
a rotary disc sander. All smaller branches were trimmed off.

A frames secured at the top and by the lower cross bars.
Construct the the A frames. We used countersink tech screws for all the joins. Each join was pre drilled first. Where we could, the screws were drilled from the inside of the frame to make them less obvious. Leave enough space above the cross-over for the top hanging bar to fit into.  Set the A frame in place by attaching the lower cross bars.

The completed quilt rack

The upper end cross bars need to be level. Choose your straightest sticks for these pieces.
When positioning the hanging bars, roll the sticks around until the top side of them is level. This is important, otherwise the quilts will not sit straight. It is of no concern that these sticks may be slightly curved sideways. Once everything is together, tidy any sharp or rough points with a course sand paper. 
Note: this is not as easy as it may seem, I have worked with 'sticks' for a few years now. It will take (and test) your patience. The job is much easier if the builder has an assistant. Clamps just won't do on a job like this. 

Good luck everyone, I hope to see lots of photos too.


Friday, 1 May 2015

Seven Sisters Quilt

Clear blue sky - perfect for star gazing
This is a quilt I made early last year, but until now, was too far away to give it a photo shoot. I made it for my sister, the star gazer. The design takes the form of the constellation (well, close to it anyway) by the same name, otherwise known as 'Pleiades'

It was a challenge activity for my local patchwork group. We swapped eight fabrics and then we could add another eight and a background. I received a collection soooooo.... opposite to what i would use, then the challenge was on. In introduces some modern fabrics including this delicious Robert Kaufman ombre as my background. Who says you can't use traditional fabrics in modern quilts anyway?

I treated each fabric as if it were a solid and looked at the overall contribution it gave to the design. From then on, it was easy enough to work each fabric into the design using my trusty design wall. 

Each star was constructed using foundation paper piecing. It gives such perfect shapes, particularly when some of them are so small.

Some of the stars were a star in a star in a star. Not satisfied there where enough stars, I then proceeded to free motion quilt hundreds of them as an all over quilt design in the background after stitching the spirals over each star block.

I was pleased with the result and happy to say, so was my sister. It now hangs in her living room with a view to the stars of the night sky.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Bunny Tails and Chaining

When I first started machine sewing, I was taught to hold the threads back out of the way. I don't quite remember when, but someone has since taught me to use bunny tails. What are they? They're little shapes of fabric doubled over to start stitching into before I start on a seam preventing a tangle. Bunny tails also allow me to have two hands free to hold and manipulate the fabric or seams as I begin to stitch. Here's an example of a used bunny tail.

As they're used, they get fluffier and fluffier.

Some people put aside all of the empty thread reels for a year, to see how much they've sewn. I choose to save my bunny tails. They take up much less room and they're like mini works of art, I just love the look of them. Each colour and stitch reminds me of the projects I did that year. Of course, the more bunny tails I collect, the more I've sewn. 

Four bunny tails last year.

The other purpose for using them is that they save thread. I have a thread cutter on my machine and use it most of the time, so I have very short thread ends anyway. If you used them at the end of the seam as well, only a very short distance of run on sewing is necessary as long as you limit the size of the bunny tail to about 1" or 1 1/2" in depth. This is a much shorter distance than what would normally be pulled through the machine to trim threads. Over a large quilt, this can be a significant saving, particularly if you are using specialist threads which can be quite costly. Once you trim your work from the bunny tail, its there waiting for you to start stitching again, so you don't even have to trouble yourself to lift the machine foot.

More little tails

They're the best thing at the start of a chain run. Chaining is a sewing technique to save time and thread. Seams to be sewn are prepared and stacked ready to go beside the machine. Starting with a bunny tail, stitch to the edge, then butt up the start of the seam close to it.

Starting to stitch on a bunny tail

Lining up the first seam at the edge of the bunny tail.

Stitching from the first and onto the second seam.

A row of seams complete and still joined together by thread.
Seams finished.

Clipping the seams apart using scissors. Thread cutters are also
handy for this job.
The next fabric pieces lined up ready for seaming.

For beginners, this could now be your best time saver. I can only advise though, be very organised and watch carefully what you are sewing. Keep everything in an orderly sequence. Happy sewing.