Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in review

I know that there are a few days left in the year, but I seriously don't think I'll manage to finish anything in that time. This year has been interesting - I spent 3 months in the US and did very little sewing during that time (except for keeping up with Block Lotto monthly blocks). And, after last year's push to finish a lot of UFOs, I feel like I've started a lot and finished little.

That said, I have actually started and finished a lot of smaller projects but some of those WIPs are turning into UFOs. And, I seem to have started some more projects recently, so the problem is getting worse. Regardless, I still have something to show for this year, and am not disappointed with what I have accomplished.

Finishes in 2012

Crumb Quilt: I started this one with Jo's crumb along with me. The goal was to use up some scraps, which I did, but it seemed to create scraps too. Before I ever posted the finished quilt, DD (and the dog) adopted this one and it's been on the bed ever since. It might be time for another one.

AMQG Baby Quilt Challenge: I did this NY Beauty based on the pattern from Sew Sweetness. I didn't win the challenge, but enjoyed making it - I hope that the baby/family that received it have enjoyed it too. One day I'll do another NY beauty for myself.

Cotton Robin Round Robin: I participated in a round robin and besides my finished quilt which I started with the appliqued bird (a NZ black robin), I added borders to two other quilts and did the quilting/binding on a third. Julie has started another round robin and I've been working on my center block this week.

AMQG Raffle Quilt: I organised this one and had members create the star blocks. We did a working day to piece and sandwich it and then I did the FMQ on this bed-sized quilt. After that, I dropped the ball on this one. Although I organised the making of the quilt, I felt like I had invested so much time and was not reaping much benefit from the group, so I stepped away.

Ukelele Bag: I whipped this bag up one weekend after discovering that DD's ukelele was being unprotected in a box with the rest of the school instruments. I confess it is a little too short, but it's so cute, who cares? And it safely carried said ukelele to the Ukelele Festival a few weeks back to be played with thousands of other school children (and a few celebrities).

Mug Rugs: I made these 5 big mug rugs (or tiny placemats?) from scraps that I acquired at a Monday Moderns meeting. I gave 4 of them away to my office mates as Christmas presents as we all seem to sit at our desks and eat during the workday (sad but true).

Suji's Quilt: My friend and hairdresser left for Melbourne with a month's notice. I made the large throw quilt for her as a going away gift. Unlike most of my work, this one was planned from start to finish and I did a lot of assembly-line work on it to get it finished in time. I hope it keeps her warm and cozy in her new home.

Advent Calendar: A response to DD asking for an advent calendar this year. I had one as a kid that my mom made with felt ornaments that we decorated the tree with. (It was destroyed by the cats but my cousin's is miraculously still around and brought many smiles when she posted it on Facebook.) My new version is more modern but I only managed to make two animals for the pockets (the rest were filled with chocolates).

Christmas Stocking: A Monday Moderns challenge. We filled them with gifts and donated them to the women's refuge. I kind of wish I had kept mine - I ended up putting a bit more time into it that I had planned and I hated to see it go. I hope at least that it brightened someone's day - someone who needed it more than me.

Bags for Christmas Gifts: I made 6 of these - 4 large ones and 2 kid's sized ones. They came out very cute and I am determined to make one for me and one for DD. So often I make gifts for other people and never make one for myself. I guess that's what happens when I have a deadline to meet and run out of time.

Block Lotto: I made blocks every month and won 48 blocks in March and have started 2 quilts from these blocks. I keep up with Block Lotto not so much to win the blocks but to continue to try new techniques and see how others deal with the design guidelines each month. There's always something to inspire me.

One more thing to add to this list is the Monday Moderns bee blocks that I have done for the past few months. I don't have pictures of some of them, but I've finished 4 sets since joining this group. Hopefully, this will be an ongoing monthly thing.

In progress / unfinished projects

Butterfly Hearts: Hand-stiching on the hearts has been slow and I realised that they were all heading in the "wrong" direction. I'm also not convinced that the hand stitching will hold up and may rethink the applique method. I'm wondering if I should take all the hearts off and restart them. his one has been set aside for a few months. I definitely need to pick it up again.

Blue Snowflakes: I've hardly made any progress on this project this year. I started it in April 2010 and have managed to finish about 7 blocks. Needle-turn applique is not something I enjoy, but I do like the results. Part of my problem is that I need really good light to do this work and daylight is my best option. Unfortunately, it's a luxury for me to have a few quiet hours during daylight hours without being interrupted by something.

Block Lotto (quilt 1): I questioned my choice of bold red/black/grey plaid borders, but it will be a good quilt for the ski house once I get it done (somehow plaid seems okay near the snow). The second quilt I have planned with the remaining blocks will have a more "sophisticated" setting.

Green Triangles: After cutting and assembling 1,452 squares, I have made up 15 blocks (each one has 36 squares). This one is taking a while, but is one that I pick up on a rainy weekend at the beach house. I'm hoping to have this one done this winter (fingers crossed).

In January it's my turn to have the Monday Moderns make me bee blocks. This past weekend I worked through making my block and will write up the instructions before our meeting in 2 weeks. (Sorry, no photos yet). I went out and puchased fabric for this project which I wish I hadn't done - I have so much in my stash. I know it will make a stunning quilt, but it will be added to the pile of WIPs.

I also have started another round robin and this block is ready to be sent off. I seem to be involved with a few things and although they are fun, social, and test my creativity, they also have a habit of getting in the way of me finishing the big projects. I have yet to strike a ballance between the two things...there's always next year...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bags of bags

I finally finished the Christmas presents that need to go to the US. I should have sent them weeks ago, but they weren't done then. They will be in the mail by tomorrow morning.

I based the design on one I saw on an old Quilting Arts episode, although mine are a slightly different size and shape than those. Each one is different and is reversible. One side has some patchwork and the other is split into two panels. There are two sizes - one for 'big' girls (about 12" tall) and one for 'little' girls (about 9" tall).

My favorite is this one in green and grey. The focal fabric has jars filled with fireflies and other bugs and snakes.

I did a mix of walking foot and FMQ on each panel. It would have been faster to do the same simple design on every one, but I always want to experiment, so every one is different. Each side is quilted separately before joining them together so there was plenty of opportunity to try a few things out.

Here are the four that I have made so far with a few different angles and inside/outside of the two I made for the little girls.

I have 3 or 4 more to make before Christmas, depending on whether I make one for myself. I have the fabric picked out for 2 of them, the other 1 (or 2) are still undecided. I think I'll take a break and start on them in a week or so. The next batch are being hand-delivered locally, so I can have them done as late as Christmas Eve. They do go faster as I've progressed through them and learned what not to do.

There are a few optional projects that I'd like to finish before Christmas but the weather is finally fine and I might just spend some time in the sunshine instead.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Empty pockets

Most of us are rapidly emptying our pockets doing Christmas shopping, but my empty pockets are on the now-completed advent calendar. I finished this yesterday, with 2 days to spare before December. (Yay me!)

I quilted the background with silver metallic thread using inspiration from Leah Day's Icicle Lights FMQ design.

But the pockets are empty, except for one. I have changed my mind about 1,000 times on what to fill the pockets with. My initial (and ultimate) plan was to make little critters to live in the pockets and get moved to the tree each day. But, making 24 critters in the next few days is not possible. I've also changed my mind about these critters - use fussy-cut novelty prints like the pockets, make them out of felt, buy them, no...make them out of felt, maybe I should just buy them, make them out of felt using the novelty prints for inspiration, buy pattern for felt ones (you get the idea).

I stumbled across these on Etsy and bought all three of the woodland animal patterns. They are by Aimee at Little Dear Tracks and are super cute.

DD and I put together one little bird last night using the few bits of wool felt that I had on hand. I have ordered some more but won't see it until Monday. So, one critter down, 23 to go! Maybe I can make one a night and keep ahead of the game (I think not). Somehow I think that most pockets will contain chocolate Santas.

The stocking for Monday Moderns is not quite finished. I did the quilting for the front and will do some quick quilting on the back before I can sew them together. DD saw this stocking and wants one just like it - that gives me 25 days to get it done. (Sorry, no pictures.)

Meanwhile, I saw a tote bag on an old episode of Quilting Arts and decided it would be quick and easy to 'throw together' for some Christmas gifts. Finding the large eyelets/grommets in Auckland has proved a major job and after going everywhere and an aborted attempt to order them from Amazon, they are on their way from I hope they arrive quickly - I have to get these bags made and shipped to the US last week. (I love Auckland, but I'm amazed at how hard it is to find easy things and how easy it is to find hard things - I found a sail maker who could put marine-grade stainless eyelets on for me but thought that was overkill and I'm not sure the boys in the workshop would have appreciated my bags.)

My plan is to do something less angular than this. But I liked the construction method and want to make big ones for the grown-ups and little ones for the girls.

Linking up to Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Christmas projects

The advent calendar is pieced together and I hope to sandwich it and start the quilting this weekend. I really wish I had a wall to hang things on for photos, but the effect of the light through the window is pretty cool too.

The other Christmas project is a stocking challenge that Monday Moderns are doing. I designed some tiny paper-pieced trees that finish at about 2-1/2 inches. They were inspired by a few things I saw on the web, but I did draft them myself. I absolutely love them and need to come up with lots of things to use them on.

The rest of the stocking was pieced with bits of red, orange, and coral that I had. The front is sandwiched and ready for quilting.

I'm going to experiment with some metallic thread. I know it can be troublesome, but a small project like this is ideal for experimentation.

Christmas presents are not happening. I finally had some inspiration but no fabric candidates are jumping out at me. There's still time, isn't there?

Linking up with WIP at Freshly Pieced.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Advent calendar

The other day DD asked me - can we make an advent calendar? Years ago (many, many, years) my mother made one out of felt and each day's pocket held a handmade sequined ornament to pin to the tree above. I asked about it when DD was little but apparently it came to some untimely destructive incident. I loved it as a kid and even though I had to take turns with my brother I made sure that the ornaments that I liked best were strategically placed in my days.

My mom apparently said that she would make another one, so I called her: "It's started," she replied. Hmmm... "Like, in the mail in 2 weeks started?" - no. I love my mom and she does great work, but here's the deal - an advent calendar has a limited life span and timing is everything. So, I am making one instead.

The recent Auckland Festival of Quilts provided some fabric inspiration. DD has been collecting owl prints and with the addition of a few more woodland critters I had enough to do something with. Still unsure of the exact design, I started with the centerpiece tree.

I have a wide variety of greens and greys and quite a few whites with silver designs. These scraps formed a foundation-pieced tree. Each row was started with a strip of lightweight muslin and a center green scrap. Then I added more green pieces ending the tree row with an angled piece of green. The grey/white/silver scraps finished each row for a snowy background. (No, it never snows in Auckland and Christmas is the start of our summer, but snow still seems right.)

I will add a trunk to the bottom once I figure out the final layout and how much trunk I need.

The pockets are all made of fussy-cut squares using the woodland prints (okay, one is a koala, but it's woodsy enough) and lined and backed with a coordinating blender fabric. I took a hint from Elizabeth at Oh, Fransson! for the construction. Her method for making the pockets allows the whole calendar to be constructed like a quilt - other approaches make the areas with the pockets a non-quilty add-on.

The pockets are in various stages of completeness. The zig-zag stitching around the numbers was a challenge - and swapping the thread for each one was a hassle. Each pocket is sashed in the same grey/white/silver prints as the background. The pockets will surround the tree.

Progress is good and I'm confident that it will be finished by December 1st. I decided early on, in the interest of time, that I would not make ornaments. If I can find some mini ones, I'll put some in the pockets and fill the rest with treats. Eventually, I should be able to collect enough ornaments with a woodland theme to fill each pocket. Better start shopping!

I have not yet started my other Christmas presents. Time is running out quickly - I like to have gifts in the post to the US by the first week in December. Could be a buy-stuff-on-Etsy-and-direct-ship year.

One other Christmas project is in the pipeline - a stocking challenge with the Monday Moderns. I have the design sketched on the back of an envelope and a pile of fabric picked out - maybe next week's post will show some progress on that one.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival - Suji's Quilt

I finished this quilt this weekend - 3 weeks from inception to completion. To be honest, it all went according to plan. Usually I have some great 'lesson learned' when I finish something, but not this time.

The design was my own, but I'm sure I've seen many quilts with similar designs out there in blog-land. I had a few design objectives:
  • Make it bright and modern
  • Use (mostly) fabrics that I already had
  • Include a Pacifica motif or theme to remind my friend of New Zealand and Auckland in particular
  • Try something different
  • Use a my Drunkard's Path templates
I used 2 drunkard's path 1/4 circles and 2 squares with narrow strips added for each petal. When I put the petals together to form a flower I decided that the background gap in the center was too big so I trimmed it down. This made the gap about half of the width that is between the flower blocks. The finished blocks are about 15 inches and the finished quilt is 45 x 60 inches (actually a little bit smaller but I didn't measure it).

I used both free motion and walking foot quilting on this quilt. I probably could have done it all with a walking foot, but there were a lot of turnarounds and I hate squeezing the quilt back and forth under the arm.

The back was pieced using some of the same fabrics from the front. I managed to find a print with the blue and coral together which I purchased after the front was finished (that was lucky). It ties the color scheme together nicely, I think. I also purchased the dark grey polka-dot print for the binding. I did have enough of a few grey prints for the job, but thought I needed something darker to ground the quilt.

I'm linking up to the Blogger's Quilt Festival at Amy's Creative Side. Check it out - there's an amazing array of great quilts for inspiration. Now, what to work on next...

Amy's Creative Side

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Progressing well

The quilt I'm making for my friend is progressing well. Two weekends ago I took it to our beach house thinking I could get a lot done. When the wind started blowing and the rain falling, I thought: "Good, excellent weather for sewing." That was until the power went out on Saturday night and the only way home is on a ferry thrugh rough seas. So we "camped out" for the night all the while me grumbling about my quilt and no power.

The sun came out on Sunday morning but not the power. DD and I headed home in calm conditions and left DH to work on pruning the trees that probably knocked our power lines out.

Much progress was made when I returned home and by Monday it was all pieced, sandwiched and ready to quilt.

Quilting began last weekend. I decided on a simple design and am pleased with the results so far. I did some of it with a walking foot and some using FMQ. I think FMQ is sometimes easier than pivoting a quilt around. I've done all of the grey background and have also finished the blue flower petals. The thread I used for the blue gave me much grief and broke about 20 times. I was surprised when I started the coral leaves because that thread (the same but a different color) has been fine.

DH & DD are off to the mountain for a final skiing weekend so I am sewing (and working) on my own. The going away party for my friend is next Monday - now I only hope she has room in her suitcase for this quilt...

Linking up with Freshly Pieced WIP.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Started something new

I promised that I would not start a new project...BUT...the need arose to make a gift. My friend (and hairdresser) is moving to Melbourne Australia. Not only does she look after my hair (a tough task indeed), she has looked after my crazy dog and elusive cat several times. To give you an example of what a kind-hearted person she is - when she was staying at our house while we were away for 2 weeks camping, she welcomed us home with a dinner of homemade gnocchi. She will be missed, and I hope that Melbourne is good to her.

So, as a going away gift, I am making her a quilt (what else?) I have been collecting grey fabric for a while and have recently purchased a few coral/cerise/persimon pieces. I've been conjuring up a quilt in my head for a while, and decided that this was the time to give it a go. Besides the coral fabrics, I've added a bunch of aqua-ish blues from my stash.

Unlike my usually organic process meandering towards a quilt, I planned this one beforehand and cut all of the pieces out first. Usually I cut a little and sew a little, but with only 3 weeks to make this quilt, I knew that an assembly-line approach would be the fastest option.

The block uses some drunkard's path quarter circles, some squares, and some strips to form a leaf-flower motif. I'll make 12 of these 15" blocks and alternate the blue and coral.

So far I've finished all of the coral/grey component squares and am progressing through the blue squares now. Considering that I just started last weekend, I'm doing well. I hope to have it all pieced by this weekend so that I can do the quilting next week. If I slip a little, I have a 1-week buffer. Nothing like a bit of pressure to motivate.

I'm linking up to Freshly Pieced WIP.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I really want to start something new

On my day off today I was itching to start a new project. But, I spent some time deciding how to quilt my first plaid quilt. After sketching out a few ideas, I had to consider what would be the best option. There's a lot to weigh up when making a decision - how much time do I want to spend, is the design practical, will there be lots of starts and stops, what will enhanse the patchwork design, and so on. Sometimes I take the hard way, sometimes the easy. Considering my desire to start something new, I chose an easy option and am glad that I did.

I've started quilting an 8-loop flower pattern centered on each block and it's quick and easy. There's no marking and the design softens the strong squares and perpendicular lines of the blocks. I've done half the blocks and should finish the others this week. I'll use the same motif on the borders although I have not yet decided on the scale yet.

Last weekend I also made some progress on my green HST quilt. I've now completed 15 blocks - I think I have at least that many more to go plus the borders. I have this project at our beach house so I don't get a chance to work on it often, especially this time of year. I know that over Christmas when we are there for a few weeks it will definitely get done. (Sorry for the bad photo, I can't manage a good one using my phone for some reason.)

I have 5 bed-sized quilts in various stages of completion. I would love to get them all done this year, but it seems unlikely. I haven't started thinking about Christmas presents yet - have you started yet?

As usual, I'm linking up to Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Too busy to blog

Lately I've felt like I am so busy doing stuff that I can't take the time to blog about that stuff. (Stuff=quilting.) I often ask myself "Should I write about it or do it?" My answer is usually "Do it!"

I've been working on some little projects - probably because all of my big projects are overwhelming me.

My first one is a ukelele bag that I made for my daughter. When I saw her toss the instrument onto the couch one day after school, I decided that what she needed was a quilted bag to carry it in safely. I picked all the fabrics from my stash and started with just the triangles but was told that it was "too brown" by the intended bag recipient. So, I added the blue strips between 2 rows of triangles, and it was much improved.

I've joined a new group called Monday Moderns. During my first meeting we exchanged scraps. There was a half-hearted challenge to do something with them. This past weekend, I used them to make some little pieces. I don't know if they are big coasters or little place mats. I wanted to practice my drunkard's path piecing and try out the new templates that I ordered. Here they all are - fronts and backs.

This is a closeup of my favorite one. It's made using my colors and I did it first. The later ones were a little less coordinated (nothing wrong with that though).

The AMQG raffle quilt is all quilted and another member is doing the binding. I was amazed how much FMQ I did on it and in hindsight, it should have been less dense - but, once you start, you have to carry on. I went through countless bobbins and at least 1/2 mile of top thread.

I sandwiched together the first Block Lotto quilt and did some stitch in the ditch to get started. It's not my most favorite thing in the world, but yesterday when I was off work I decided to work on my least fun thing first. The backing is pieced like a giant plaid and works well.

I'm making slow progress on the butterfly heart quilt and just realized that I've sewn on the hearts flying in the wrong direction. So, I will need to rethink how they go - just part of the design process, I say.

No progress on Blue Snowflakes for ages. I brought it along when we went skiing a few weeks ago but the mountain was closed because of bad weather. Rather than sitting by the fire alone sewing while DH & DD skied, we spent the days together trying to entertain ourselves.

No progress on the Green Triangles. Do I have too many WIPs?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

FMQ on AMQG raffle quilt

At times I regret organising a quilt to raise funds for the Auckland Modern Quilt Guild (AMQG), but I admit that I am enjoying the process even though it has been time consuming. Luckily (maybe) I have been home sick these past few days, so I have had some time between naps to sew.

Members of the guild have made blocks and we have had 2 working days to piece together the tops (we have enough for 2) and sandwich the layers. I have volunteered to quilt one of them and another member (with a long arm - lucky!) is doing the second one.

I stressed over my foolhardiness, but came to terms with my decision to quilt this. I've done big quilts before, but only for me, not for someone else - and certainly not for someone willing to pay money for a raffle ticket. But, I am looking at it as a learning experience.

So, my first step was to engulf myself in anything I could to learn more about FMQ - books from the library, a course on Craftsy, a few books downloaded to my Kindle. And what did I learn? That I knew what I was doing and that none of these things could give me what I needed - courage!

So, yesterday I dived in. I started with the stars - each one requiring a different color thread. Luckily, I have a lot of thread (some are mine from years of sewing; others from my MIL when she moved into a nursing home).

For each star, I've done a square spiral in the center and curvy zig-zags on the points. I admit that none of them are perfect, but altogether, they look good.

I have 3 more stars to do and then I will start on the background. I'm planning a swirly pattern although I have not yet committed to the exact motif - I've done about 10 samples on paper and on fabric, but am still undecided. I have a pale grey veriegated thread already for the background, so I should be moving forward on that this weekend.

Here's a wider shot of the quilt - or check out a full photo of the flimsy on the AMQG website.