Thursday, April 10, 2014

Round robin progress

For the third year in a row I am participating in a round robin organized by an online Block Lotto friend. We are on the third round - adding a second border to someone's center block. I would love to show what I have done, but it's all supposed to be secret. I can show you a color-modified peek though.

I am at my mother's house in Virginia right now - my father is very sick and is in the hospital under hospice care. I made the decision to come home on short notice from New Zealand to be with my family. Mom and I are talking about making a small quilt to be placed in the casket with my dad. He will (eventually) be buried with full military honors in Arlington Cemetery, so I am thinking about something patriotic with a stars and stripes motif.

I wonder if it's a strange thing to be designing a quilt at a time like this, but it is something that my mother and I share and we all know that quilting is therapeutic. It will keep me busy as well. I have some ideas, but I need to keep it simple so it doesn't become a burden on us to get it finished.

I was making my bed this morning (uber-uncomfortable futon couch) and wanted to take a photo of the three quilts I have been using. I was so cold the first night and none of them are bed sized, so I thought three was appropriate.

The bottom one was made in a class we did together in Queenstown a few years ago using a 4-patch caleidoscope technique. The fan quilt is made with Laura Ashley prints that were purchased in England in the 70s - I think my mother started piecing this by hand about 35 years ago and finished it recently. The last quilt is a simple block pattern made with Asian prints. A nice mix to keep me cozy.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tea towel progress report

I finally decided to add a white border to the outside of my tea towel quilt. It is plain but my plan is to mirror the half circles from the inner border using quilting. I did a lot of calculations to figure out how wide to make it based on the potential size of the half circle motif. And, after all that I realized that I only had enough fabric to cut a 3 inch border.

While away this weekend, I found some wool thread by Madeira. I've never used this before and I thought it might be interesting to use for the hand quilting on the center tea towel panel - the colors were perfect.

I also thought I'd try to use a polyester batting - I hear that my usual thin cotton batting can be hard to hand sew through. I bought some that was prepackaged because for some reason all of the batting in the store was wrapped up in plastic and I could not feel any of them. I thought I picked a thinner one, but once I pulled it out it seemed very dense. So far, not so good. My next mistake was using a basting spray - also something I never do. After spraying half the can onto the quilt, it did not stick at all. What a waste! So, back to old school pinning.

Now that it's finally basted, I'm not sure how to attack. I think I should machine quilt the inner border first to keep everything in place. I also don't seem to have a hoop or a thimble to do the hand quilting (I think I packed them away). I confess that this is not the first time I've planned to hand quilt, but I have never succeeded. I guess I'm just looking for excuses...

Linking up with Lee @ Freshly Pieced.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Emergency table runner

These past few days have been crazy hectic. Our house is on the market and the first open home is this weekend. A few weeks ago there was an incident involving a bottle of '30 Seconds Indoor Mould Remover', a kitten, and my French oak dining table. I thought I could polish out the offending blemish, but the finish was gone and there was bare wood showing.

What's a girl to do? I had a quick run to some nearby shops looking for a suitable table runner to cover up the problem. I could find nothing so ended up foolishly deciding to make one - how long could it take?

Inspired by the Coke-bottle coloured glass tiles in my kitchen, I made a runner in similar tones mixed with grey. The brick pattern also matches the tiles. I decided to buy some insul-bright for batting to make it heatproof.

I admit that this whole project was doomed from the start: I was rushed, I did straight-line quilting which I am surprisingly bad at, I overlooked things I should have redone... So, my stitching is crooked and the binding is wavy. I'm hoping if I toss it in the wash it will sort itself out, but I think that unlike my usual cotton batting that has some give, the insul-bright is giveless.

The runner was on the table in time for the photos for the ads and signs. I have yet to decide if I will keep it there for the open home. Sometimes projects just don't meet up to my standards and in hindsight I should have done something different - like hemmed a nice piece of linen as a runner - maybe there's still time...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tea towel quilt top finished (maybe?)

I finally got my sewing machine back and set it up yesterday. I had cut out the equilateral triangles for the (maybe) last border over a week ago, so it was nice to get it sewn together. I love how the triangles look like pennants hanging off the pink skinny border.

I wasn't sure what to do with the corners, I was left with a 30-degree empty wedge. I debated removing the last triangle on each side and creating a 120-degree piece but decided that it would be too large a chunk of one fabric. So, I chose to put in pink wedges which were a little tricky because of the tight y-seam. Still, I managed well enough and am satisfied with them.

Now I need to decide if I am done or if I want to add a white border. I am imagining a white border quilted with owl silhouettes in pink-orange-teal veriegated thread. Crazy talk, I know. As a compromise, maybe a thinner white border and then the orange binding. I just feel like there's a lot of white in the center and none in the outer borders. I'm also wondering if I want it bigger. Currently it's 42x48 - I can't decide if it will be a wall hanging or a throw quilt. Any opinions?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Back from Craft & Quilt show in Christchurch

I spent the past few days in Christchurch attending the Craft & Quilt Show. We had our Juki machines and Swiftquilter frame on display. Poor hubby had to drive down with the 4x4 packed to the ceiling and I had the luxury of flying in and back out with only my carry-on bag.

The stand looked a lot like the one we had at the Auckland Festival of Quilts. Hubby did all the unpacking and setting up so I did not have the heart to ask him to move the quilts around so that my most recent creation had pride of place. Instead, my scrappy warm/cool diamonds were covering a trestle table in the corner with the PC and accessories on top of it.

I spent the three days doodling on my 'short-arm quilting machine' (my new name for the Swiftquilter setup). One can only do so much stippling before it gets very old. After a few questions about using a template, I thought I would create my own as an experiment.

I drafted a little bird and when I was happy with it, I did some paper folding and layering. I took the stack of paper to the sewing machine and without any thread I sewed around my sketch. When I unfolded it all, I had 4 birds in kissing pairs. I used a marker to trace each one following the perforations made by the machine needle. Not perfect by any standards, but I figured it would give me an example of how the templates can be created. (Sorry, they are upside down in the photo)

To use the template, I drive from the back of the machine and use the stylus to follow the template. My biggest problem is taking my eyes off of the stylus to take a peek at the stitching - this only leads to disaster!

I admit that I prefer to do everything freehand from the front of the machine, but acknowledge that there are times when a template like this is useful. I have even made a promise (to myself) that I will use this technique on my next quilt.

The end result was fine, although if this were a real quilt, and not a demo on the cheapest cotton fabric I could find, I would have tweaked my design a bit. I think that they came out much better after I filled in the background. Here you can see one set filled in with some swirls and the back of another surrounded by stippling.

Other than hours of demonstrations, I have done no sewing this week. The Monday Moderns had a sewing day on Saturday that I missed (bummer) and all the sewing machines including mine were packed up last Monday. I will hopefully see them again tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, I have cut out the next border for my tea towel challenge and am expecting the first round of the Cotton Robin round robin any day now. Check out the centre blocks here. I don't know which one I will get and it's all secret squirrel until they are all finished and sent back to their owners. Try to (secretly) guess which one is mine.

Friday, February 7, 2014

More owl progress and some lilies

I finished making the crosses to echo the owl feet in my tea towel. At first I was going to put them all side by side, but found that the secondary pattern that appeared when the orange/pink crosses touched each other diffused the 'crossiness' of the blocks. So I added a 1-inch border on each one to give those crosses some breathing room. I like the two rows that I made, but think that they are very dark compared to the half circles and the tea towel center. This means that I'll need to lighten up the final border to balance things out.

Right now, the quilt is 35 x 39. Although I planned a small wall hanging quilt, I'm starting think that the scale of the owl design needs big and bold around it. Maybe the next border will be 6 inches bringing the quilt up to 47 x 51 which is more lap-sized than wall hanging.

I definitely want to do some triangles - probably equilaterals to reference the little triangle beaks. I do have two problems:

  • I probably don't have enough fabric for a big border.
  • The math is a bit tricky at 35 and 39 - there's no common denominator except for 1. I might need another narrow border - maybe 1/2" to bring it to 36 x 40 which are both easily divisible by 4. But, what color?

Neither problem is insurmountable. Although this challenge is supposed to run until March, I am keen to get as much done now as I can.

I am also working on a piece that my mother started and has asked me to finish. It's done with iron on pieces that are appliqued and quilted in one go to make a wall hanging. I admit that it's giving me some grief - there are some spots with multiple layers of fabric that have been ironed on and they are thick and hard to sew through. I am using a brand new reinforced needle on my Juki TL-98 which can sew through anything. Even still, it's hard to maintain even stitches and maintain good tension...

As always, I have concluded that even if each individual stitch or line is not perfect, the overall look is good. Let's call it organic. I have the quilting finished and am trying to decide on the biniding. The only thing I have on hand is the fabric I used for the backing that matches the stamens. Although I could use it, it detracts from the design. I think I'd prefer a more subtle color.

Earlier this week I saw some really inspiring quilts at Monday Moderns. I am trying very hard to keep myself from starting anything new. I have quite a few small things on the go including a round robin center block that I should see in the next week or two.

From 13 February, I will be down in Christchurch as a vendor at the Craft and Quilt show. This show has not been to the south island since the earthquake, so I am hoping that there is a good turnout. Poor hubby will be driving down from Auckland - I will be flying down.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Owl tea towel progress

I have made a start on my tea towel challenge. My first task was to stabilize the tea towel since it is made of a looser weave linen than the usual quilting fabric. I decided to baste some light weight interfacing to it rather than use iron-on. I've had some bad luck with iron-on stuff lately.

My plan is to use shapes from the tea towel design, so I drafted a half circle block to go around the first orange border.

This morning I made a prototype of a cross block that will be a top and bottom border - this should square it up a bit more. This is a fiddly block that I drafted to match the shape of the owl feet. I have to cut it "old school" using a template because of the odd angles. These will take a while to cut, but they go together quickly like a crooked 9 patch.

I will probably make one more pieced border, no specific plan yet. The beaks are equilateral triangles and I might take my inspiration from them.

One of the parameters of this challenge is to do something that I've never done before. I guess everything I do is somewhat new since I rarely use patterns or do the same thing twice. But, that seems a little weak.

I have been pondering the ultimate "thing I never do" - hand quilt (EEEEK!). It seems appropriate for a little retro quilt like this. I am envisioning chunky stitches in bright colors...hmmm...

Join me for the Tea Towel Challenge 2014