Sunday, March 8, 2015

New project

Last weekend the Monday Modern girls had a sewing day. I wanted to start a new project to work on. I had started collecting some cat fabrics all of which had some grey and some pink in them. The grey was intentional, the pink just kind of happened. I bought a few solids that matched the different pinks that ranged from magenta to coral. I wouldn't usually mix these colors, but I think they work somehow.

I wanted to design a quilt that highlighted the cat prints without being too simple. After trawling though the internet for ideas, I designed a block with a 4" center square for the cat prints. The center is bordered by a pink solid, accented with a black/white print, and finished with white. I'm not sure that my design is unique, but it is my own.

Another goal for this project was to plan the quilt from start to finish. Some friends were lamenting about problems with some patterns they had used from books or that they had purchased and I started thinking about how one would go about designing a quilt with the intent to publish a pattern. Usually I work quite organically making decisions along the way and I enjoy this process. When I have made quilts for others, usually with a deadline, I always plan these out from the start. I don't have any of these to look at and analyse, but I remember them as being more cohesive but also more sanitized than quilts I make and keep.

How would planning affect my creative process? I admit that I purchased the fabric before I knew how I would use them and some have come from my stash. I haven't calculated out exactly what the requirements are, although I did have to do this with the white because I did not have enough. I was surprised that I would need 1-1/2 yards for 25 blocks.

I started by trying to cut out all of the fabric and then got bored and started making blocks. This weekend I finished cutting so I have nice tidy piles ready to go. So far I've made 6 of the blocks and I'm liking how they work together.

I'm using a few different techniques for the different elements in the block - the half square triangles are made 8 at a time and the flying geese are made 4 at a time using the 'no waste' method. It takes me just over 30 minutes to make one block, so I hope to do one a day until I have the remaining 19 finished.

I'm already staring to think about how I will quilt this one. Maybe a change from my usual is in order...or maybe not.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Quilting the green triangles

Last week I mounted my green triangle quilt onto my Swiftquilter frame. I decided only to quilt the white areas and leave the green untouched. I'm hoping this will highlight the green squares. I'm using simple freehand feathers for most of it and some loopy daisies in the white squares and setting triangles on the borders.

So far it's going fine, although in the interest of not stopping/starting (and creating annoying threads to deal with) I have struggled with the transitions between some of the white sections. I know that it will all look fine, but I'm unhappy with a few bits that didn't quite work how I wanted them to. In hindsight, I would have approached some of it slightly different. I did not follow my own advice and test the quilting on a paper version. The feathers are easy, but I should have experimented with moving from one section to the next.

I'm also working on a new quilt that I have done one prototype block and started cutting fabrics. I'm having a sewing day with the Monday Modern girls this weekend and will work on it there - will post when I have a few pictures.

My round robin block has arrived and I'm thinking about the first border for that one. Unfortunately, that project is all secret squirrel until the finished quilts are revealed - so nothing to say there.

Not an exciting conclusion to this post, but sometimes life is like that. Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced this week.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A finished quilt top (finally!)

I can't believe it's been so long since I've posted - but, I have not done much since I was away for a while visiting the US.

This quilt has been on the go for 3-1/2 years. Of course, it's been pushed aside many times and for long periods, but I was determined to get it finished during the summer holidays before I started back at work a week ago. For the whole story, check out previous posts about this quilt here. (Thanks Catherine for taking the pic and sending it to me.)

The finished size is 75" square and it's made up of 3,200 triangles. I haven't bothered to count, but I suspect that there are about 40 green and grey fabrics and a similar number of white/cream fabrics. I did buy quite a few fat quarters when I initially thought of doing a green quilt, but many of the fabrics have been from my stash or were bits from other projects along the way.

I am now working on the back. As usual it is pieced out of necessity. I have a few 1 yard cuts of green and white but am struggling getting it pieced in an efficient and attractive way. Some days I think I should buy a bolt of extra wide fabric and just use it for all my backs.

Hopefully I will be ready to quilt it on the weekend...better check to see if I have a big piece of batting; otherwise, I'm off to the shop one night this week.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas sewing - just a little

Some years I try to make most Christmas gifts, but this has not happened for a few years now; however, I did manage a few small things.

I made two tote bags following Adrianne's tutorial. I used a different size to maximise my piece of Soft & Stable and I did some straight line quilting to keep some of the layers together. My bags also have a bigger footprint - I chose to sew a 2" box corner. They went together super fast and the biggest issue was finding webbing for the straps that matched. These two were given as gifts to my two coworkers, one of whom had a tote in such bad shape I was starting to be a little embarrassed going around with her.

I also made four coasters for a Monday Modern Secret Santa - as is often the case with me, I forgot to take a photo before gifting it. Last year's was the same. I did a pretty traditional looking pattern using silver/white half square triangles on mostly black. The squares are 1" resulting in a 4" coaster. They looked a little bland, so I bound each one in a super bright solid binding (lime, coral, aqua, and hot pink). Here's a drawing of the design.

After a few years, I made two more woodland creatures (is a fungus a creature?) for the advent calendar. I am hoping to do at least one more before Christmas. These are so cute and go together so quickly, I don't really have an excuse why I haven't done more. I ordered the pattern from Etsy - they are by Amy Ray.

I have now finished work for a long while - I will return when my daughter starts school (6 weeks from now). I will hopefully get some sewing done when we are home - we are away for 3 weeks during the holidays.

Top priority is my center block for the 2015 Cotton Robin round robin. It is due by the end of January and since we will be away, I need to get it finished before I leave. This year's challenge is to use a color or color combination that we have not used before. I know I won't use blue or green, but it's hard to work out what I should use. Can't share more because it has to stay a secret, but here's last year's finish with my center block.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A dress

Lately I've been having trouble finding clothes for my daughter. Here in New Zealand, there seems to be a large hole in the sizes - most kids things only go to 8 or 10 and then suddenly there's nothing. There are few girls size 12, and nothing in a 14 or 16. I'm told she has to wear women's sizes, but she's shaped like a child, not a woman. The XS necklines are halfway to her tummy and the sleeves are 4 inches too long.

So, when faced with her primary school graduation (since when do you graduate from year 6?), I turned to some ancient skills - sewing clothes. There was a time many years ago when I would spend the weekend tailoring a fitted lined suit out of Italian wool crepe to a Vogue Donna Karan pattern. Those days are long gone and it's been over a decade since I followed a dress pattern.

But, some of the girls dresses go up to a 16, so I thought this would be the way to go until my girl gets taller and curvier.

We picked out a pattern (and then called around looking for somewhere who had it in stock - tricky) and some cotton fabric. I spent much of Sunday and another 45 minutes last night finishing it off. Everything was straight forward except the zipper - I always hated zippers. I used to prefer invisible ones in my pencil skirts and cocktail dresses, but I thought I'd just follow the instructions for the standard zipper. It's always the top part near where the slider stops that gets me. And there's always a gap at the top and I can never get the required hook and eye to work. But ignoring that, it came out great.

Since most of my sewing lately has been quilting, it's nice to try out some other techniques and stitches on my Juki F600 machine. The buttonholes turned out fine and I even used the blind hem stitch and special foot for the hem. I'm quite pleased at the end result. Maybe I'll make myself something...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let the sun shine in

The weather in Auckland has been pretty patchy this week - I woke to hail this morning. But, my day off yesterday was filled with sunshine - at least in my sewing room.

I won 15 sunrise blocks (7" x 14") from Block Lotto in June and a while ago I started piecing a giant sun to go in the center of a quilt to be surrounded by smaller ones. The half-sun blocks needed to be paired up to make full suns - and this was no easy task. It is always a compromise when you are working with elements in a quilt that were made by a variety of people.

I thought I would share my experience trying to put together some of these blocks. My goal is not to criticize any of the lovely quilters who contributed blocks - but there are challenges, and since this is the fifth quilt I've made from blocks that others have contributed, I have learned some lessons on how to best deal with some problems that come up.

I think that this block especially was at risk of being inconsistent. Different methods were offered for piecing (by hand or foundation paper pieced) and some people (including me) had trouble convincing their printers not to re-scale the patterns that were provided. A lesson to any of us creating a pattern for others: include dimensions on the pattern in both horizontal and vertical directions. My printout seemed correct in one direction, but I realized (luckily, not too late) that it was not correct in the other direction.

In my case, the variation of the width of the suns among the 15 blocks was almost an inch. Most were within 1/4 inch of each other. The sizes of the center half circles also varied, although not as much. My usual approach is to come up with a layout that obscures these differences - either with sashing or offsetting the blocks. But, some block designs are made to be interlinked and can often form intriguing secondary designs between them. For this project, I really wanted round suns, so I had to get creative.

I had three background colors to work with, so I grouped the blocks by background (blue, white, and yellow). Then I matched them up into pairs fitting them together as much as possible. Two blue ones were much bigger than the others and one of those was the biggest of the lot. For this one, I took in the large curved seam, especially at the edges by sewing outside the original stitching. This did slightly distort the block, but I knew I would trim them all square once they were paired up.

I needed to make one more half sun block so that I could have 8 pairs, so I made one with a yellow background to match the orphan that I had left. I admit that no pair is perfectly matched, but I don't mind. Now that they are all squared and trimmed, they look quite good on the design wall. I'm glad I kept every one that was sent to me and didn't give up on any of them by judging them too difficult to save. I can't imagine putting together 16 of these blocks myself - so I have 9 other quilters to thank. I made four of these blocks and they were pretty tricky. Three of them are in this quilt and the fourth (and best one) was sent to another winner.

The blocks were designed to finish at 14" and I've trimmed them down to finish at 13". The big center square will be a 32", so I'll need some sashing so that I can put two small suns on each side edge of the center. I also don't know what I will do in the corners. I guess I'll figure that out once I finish the two other quarters of the center sun.

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced.

Stumbling towards the finish line

[NOTE: I was so disorganized when I wrote this last week that I never finished it - so, you have to imagine going back in time to read it and then moving forward in time to see the finished photos.]

Have you ever had a project that just didn't want to get finished? That's how I feel about my blue snowflake quilt - especially now that I've been so close to finishing for ages.

It's been a WIP for over 3 years and it was rescued from being a UFO a few times. In August I did a big push to get the last block appliqued and the top done, and by mid September it was mounted onto the Swiftquilter frame and I started the quilting. But then life got in the way and the quilting (which was more detailed than anything else I have done) took much longer than expected.

So, each deadline that I was trying to make, I missed:

  1. Auckland Quilt Guild Festival of Quilts submission on 4 October
  2. The Blogger's Quilt Festival (see Amy's Creative Side) entries closed on 31 October
  3. And finally, Auckland Festival of Quilts merchant's stand setup tomorrow (I know, there's still a chance I will make this one)

The quilt has been near-done for almost two weeks, but the hand sewing on the binding took me a while and the tucking of hundreds of thread tails is lingering over me like some leftover Halloween specter.

[Here it is - finished and hanging in our merchant stand.]

[Here's some detail, I love the back.]

And then there's Mario (of Nintendo Mario Brothers fame). I am used to missing deadlines for myself, but this is not a lesson that I want to teach my 10 year old right now. I moved through Halloween unscathed by costume prep because last year's still fit and she was happy to wear it again. But, when the invitation arrived for Charlie's "Video Game Dress Up Birthday Party" this Friday, I knew I was in trouble. I did suggest putting a box on her head in the style of Minecraft, but that was not popular.

So, it was off to source costume supplies last weekend - $50 later we had fabric for blue overalls, a red t-shirt, red fleece for a hat, white gloves, white buttons, yellow paint to cover the white buttons, and a variety of stick-on mustaches.

So far, the overalls are sewed together, the hat is made, and the buttons have been painted with about 10 coats of paint. All that's left is to seal the buttons with acrylic and sew them onto the overalls. I also have to make massive buttonholes for the big yellow buttons. My Juki F600 has a fab automatic button-hole attachment, but it has it's limitations - in this case 1-1/4" buttons. My buttons are more like 1-1/2", so I will need to do them old school. I am considering using Velcro instead, it is just a costume after all.

[Mario, all finished.]

Meanwhile, tomorrow is setup day for the Festival of Quilts and I will spend most of it packing up sewing machines, accessories, tables, a Swiftquilter, display quilts, etc. and then unpacking them all for the show.