Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A finish for 2013

Happy New Year. 2013 will end in Auckland in 7 hours and I managed to finish one more quilt with about 12 hours to spare. I started this scrappy quilt in August after tidying up my sewing space and realising that I had (have) too much fabric. This quilt was inspired by one I saw at a show and it seemed like the perfect way to use up some fabric. Yes, I used up some fabric, but I will need to do a few more to make a difference in the stash.

I really love the contrast between warm and cool colours. It really makes an impact.

The quilting gave me some grief (nothing new here). I wish the diamonds were a bit smaller - they were just a little too big to quilt with the Swiftquilter so I had to do quite a bit of adjusting of the frame while quilting. Next time I'll think ahead.

I chose a blue and green polka dot print for the binding. I thought it was a good contrast to the mostly warm coloured diamonds that are on the edge of the quilt. I used a slightly different method for this one - I sewed it on the back and then edge stitched it by machine on the front. I've been experimenting with binding lately and this seems like the quickest approach.

I had to wash the quilt before I put the binding on and I think that has caused a bit of a wave on the edges - I am hoping this will sort itself out when I wash it again. Unfortunately, my new kitten decided to leap onto the bed where the quilt was folded up and vomit his entire dinner. Needless to say, a trip to the laundry room was required.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tea towel challenge

My online quilting friend, Sophie, is organising a challenge for the early part of 2014. The challenge is to use a tea towel (new or vintage) and design and create a quilt with it. When Sophie did one last year I was really keen to give it a go - so of course I'm signing up for her challenge.

Join me for the Tea Towel Challenge 2014

Originally I thought I'd go for a New Zealand theme - there is a tradition here (and in other parts of the commonwealth) to buy tea towels as souvenirs. But, I really couldn't find a vintage one that caught my eye and I didn't fancy buying a new one.

I found some inspiration on Etsy and have purchased two vintage towels online. I'm not sure which one I will use (maybe I'll do two), it depends on how I go with colour matching. Sometimes vintage colours can be hard to match.

One tea towel has a Christmas theme and I thought it would be fun to make a wall hanging that could come out each year. The other has fantastic colours and owls. Both are a bit kitschy and have bright bold graphics. I can't wait until they arrive so I can have a close look and start shopping for fabrics.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hot and cold quilting

This quilt top was set aside a few months ago. I finally setup the Swiftquilter and am ready to go. The problem is, I really didn't know what to do. I had a few false starts and had to unpick what I started twice.

My problem is that I need to think about the quilting (or at least the area I can work in) when I start designing a quilt. As usual, I want to quilt a motif bigger than my working area. I am sure that if I had a full-size longarm setup, I would still want to do something an inch bigger than I can.

I finally decided to do some ferny feathers within a smaller diamond. Then I started adding a squiggly line border (times three) around it. This is working okay, but I have to wind up/down the quilt because it's still bigger than my working area.

Somehow my heart just isn't in this. I think I have too many other things going on. I know that I will like the finished piece, but maybe I just need to do something else for a few days. Too bad the frame (with extension) is taking up my living room and half the dining room.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Green HST blocks

Pronunciation: /ˈfɒli/
noun (plural follies)
  1. [mass noun] lack of good sense; foolishness: an act of sheer folly
    [count noun] a foolish act, idea, or practice: the follies of youth
  2. a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.
  3. (Follies) a theatrical revue with glamorous female performers: [in names]:the Ziegfeld Follies

Origin: Middle English: from Old French folie 'madness', in modern French also 'delight, favourite dwelling' (compare with sense 2), from fol 'fool, foolish'

My definition of folly is on the design wall. A few years ago I had an idea about using some 'bonus' HST squares to make a quilt. I only had a handful of these squares and they were a funny size because they had been trimmed off of something else. Instead of using these as an inspiration, I replicated them.

I should have:
  • Changed the size to something easier and bigger - unfinished size is 2-3/8"
  • Researched 'quick' methods for making lots of HST blocks
  • Calculated that I needed 1,452 of them to make a queen sized quilt
  • Run away

Instead, I moved forward.

These have been languishing at the beach house for at almost 2 years. Every time I go out there I make a few on the weekend. As of last week I had 20 of the component blocks. I decided to bring them back home and make an effort to get more done.

I was sick earlier this week and managed to make 8 more blocks between naps - only 8 more to go. Then I have the 'edge' blocks to finish. These are 2 squares wide and are mostly white with some green to finish off some of the square designs to create a border of sorts (I've made one an put it on the design wall). I'm determined to finish them this weekend. We'll see if I succeed.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hexa-bee finished quilt

I never did post this finished quilt, so I took the opportunity to take a photos while it was hanging up on the wall at the show. I finished it a couple of months ago but could not find somewhere to hang it, then it was on display, and I was away for a while...

To be honest, this is my favorite quilt that I've made. I love that it's modern but still a bit scrappy. The quilting that I did using the Swiftquilter frame and Juki TL-98 is simple and effective. I am working on my technique, so the quilting is far from perfect, but I always apply the 6-foot (2 metre) rule - stand 6 feet away and see how it looks.

I was afraid of all the green solid fabric that I used, but I'm glad I overcame my fear of solids and negative space because it gives the pieced hexagon blocks some room to breath. I have a lot of green solid equilateral triangles left over from cutting out the big hexagons - there were two between every pair I cut. I'm not sure what to do with them - any suggestions?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

English paper pieced hexagons

I am always a little late with the trends, so after everyone in blogland has done some EPP, I've decided to give it a go. While I was in the US I saw a patterns for 'Hexie Bonbons' in a McCalls Quilting magazine. It required 8 biggish hexagons - about my speed considering my reluctance to do anything by hand.

I started this project because after having the day off yesterday, I could not come up with a project to work on - I think I'm a little burned out after the show. Add to that the house auction that we were going to last night, I was anxious and distracted and could not focus on anything. I decided that a little hand piecing while sitting in the sun was just the thing to calm my nerves.

I confess I like the way the parts come together and the paper pieces make the whole thing satisfyingly crisp. This pattern results in all the hexagons being sewn together to form a little cushion of sorts. Imagine a flat version of a soccer ball (also made up of hexagons). I'm not sure how to work them when I get around the back, but I'm sure there's a way. I just have to remember to pull out the papers before it gets too closed in to reach them.

I'm now envisioning a pig pouf pillow made with 8 huge hexies. I think I'm getting carried away.

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced WIP.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Showtime - Auckland Festival of Quilts

Yesterday was the first day of the Auckland Festival of Quilts and our first public outing selling the Juki sewing machines and Swiftquilter frame. I took a few photos while setting up before the crowds came in.

I did add some more quilts opening morning because there was too much grey on the divider walls. Initially, I wanted to limit them to those I made with the Juki machines, but hubby convinced me that any quilt was better than a blank wall. It was a good call because my crumb quilt (washed the night before because the it's on DDs bed and the dog sleeps on it) received a bit of attention and brought a few people in to take a closer look.

We had quite a few people interested in the machines and the frame. My husband commented that every person that he spoke to already had one and were coming in to say hi to the man who originally sold them. We did get some good feedback about improvements or changes and we will take these home for consideration.

I didn't think the show was as crowded as previous years - someone suggested that the holiday on Monday prevented people from taking time off on Friday. Although I did not leave the stand much and hope to get a good look at all the quilts and other vendors on Sunday afternoon (supposedly the 'slow' time).

If you are in Auckland, come and say hi.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stitch demo teddy

I made this little guy to demonstrate all of the decorative stitches on one of our sewing machines. I'm not one for this kind of thing but thought it was better than creating a bunch of samples on a plain piece of fabric.

We are gearing up for the Auckland Festival of Quilts next weekend. It's our first show and kind of launch for our Juki machines. There's so much to do still.

I am also making some logo banners to hang up. These are going well and just need binding. I am not fond of binding.

Now that I've done the fun jobs it's time to get working on some of the boring tasks. Thank goodness hubby is working on inventory and accounting stuff, I don't think I could cope with that too.

I'm trying out a new app to post this. If it looks odd, I'll tidy it up later.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A 100th birthday present

My mom and I finished the memory quilt in time for my grandmother's 100th birthday party. I did the machine applique and quilting and mom stayed up late to do the binding.

I decided to FMQ a meander in all of the white space - I did experiment with a few options, but this was the easiest and most effective. I had some grief with my mom's machine and fussed around with different thread options, but managed to get it done without having any tantrums. I mean no disrespect to all of you Pfaff-lovers out there, but my mom needs to get rid of hers. Maybe a new Juki for Christmas?

The quilt received a lot of attention at the party and it was fun for everyone to look through the photos and try to work out who was who. I especially love the old photos of my mother - she was very cute!

I'm back in NZ now and trying to get into the groove of work and daily life. I have lots of projects on the go - more about that later.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Progress on grandma's memory quilt

I've made some progress on the quilt for my grandmother. I manage to overcome my differences with my mom's Pfaff and machine applique the tree, leaves, and some flowers onto the background.

I'm all set to sandwich the quilt tonight. But, I have no idea how to quilt it. I am hesitant to try and FMQ with a strange machine, although I think a filler design on all of the white between the photos would highlight them. I am wondering if I want to quilt over the photos and make them more 'backgroundy' - some of them are very prominent.

It's Thursday night and the birthday party is on Saturday. Whatever I decide, it better be soon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Memory quilt for Grandma

Has it really been almost a month since I posted? I have been very busy and productive, but somehow I have neglected to share.

Right now I'm in the USA visiting family. My grandmother turns 100 this week and my mother and I are working on a family tree/memory quilt for her. I admit that we should have planned ahead and I could have done some of the work while I was still at home, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.

I had a major argument with my mom's Mac and scanner, abandoned them and connected the scanner to my Windows laptop. That went fine until I tried to print. Somehow it did not work on my laptop and I needed to move the printer back to the Mac. Finally, I got all of the photos done and added white on white coping strips to make them all 4x4 or 4x8 or 8x8 so that we could easily sew them together into 8" blocks.

We are now embroidering names onto green fabrics. These will be appliqued onto the quilt as leaves on a tree. We decided just to include my grandparents and all of their direct decendents. Luckily our family is small and this only required 22 names.

I am not great at embroidery and those that know me will know that handwork is not my favourite. But, I've managed to do my half and the names are readable, if not slightly rustic.

We have until Saturday to get the whole thing done. I better hustle!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Another new project

Yes, I have started yet another project. This one is made from fabric supplied by Helen at our Monday Modern quilters group last Monday - I think I took home 13 fat quarters. Helen provided the fabric and a piece of pre-cut batting and challenged us to make a small quilt for a child. The batting basically dictated the size - it's about 46" x 52".

The fabrics I chose included three from a collection and others that blended in. I like the combination of blues, purples, and black, although it was looking a bit too cohesive when I laid out all of the fabrics when I got home from our meeting. My first instinct was to do something fast and simple - like 4" squares. But, where's the challenge in that?

Instead I decided I would make a medallion quilt with a round robin approach to the design (translation: no planning for each border until I get to it). I made the 16" centre block by ironing on two sizes of flowers and then using a machine buttonhole stitch to sew them down. I'm happy with the results, but the flowers are quite stiff - I may have to rethink the fusible product that I used.

From the centre block I worked my way out adding three sets of borders. So far so good. Now I'm a little stuck - the quilt measures 42" square which is a bit on the small side. I thought maybe a couple more plain borders to "contain" the random squares, but I really don't have enough fabric for that - all that is left are a few strips and one more fat quarter. Even a 2" border would take more than a fat quarter. Maybe I could dig into my stash (like I did for the solid seafoam 1" borders).

I have several projects in the pipeline that I need to start and finish by the first weekend of November. These will be used as demos for our merchant stand at the Festival of Quilts - a banner quilt with our logo on it and a machine embellished crazy quilt teddy bear. Meanwhile, I'm off the the States for three weeks between now and then. Did I mention that I started a new job last week...

So, I may just need to call this one done and move on to quilting it before the weekend. Any suggestions?

Monday Modern Quilters exhibit starts next week

For anyone in the Auckland area - a few of my pieces will be on exhibit at Highwic house in Epsom.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I've been playing around with a few replacements to the much-lamented disappearence of Google Reader. Many have done detailed research, I basically want something I can access from the office, my phone, and home. Bloglovin' is the only one that works for me, so that is that.

If you want to follow me on Bloglovin' please use this link: Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting organised

After completely trashing my sewing area looking for fabrics to finish the hot and cold string pieces, I powered through getting the strips cut and sewn together and even trimmed them down so that they are ready to cut into triangles. I am making 80 of them to make a single-sized quilt.

But, this exercise taught me something: I need to get organised. It's not really my nature to be too organised. I used to be but life is more complicated these days. But, when my lack of organisation influences my choices (especially my creative ones), it's time to act.

I was also inspired by some of the posts I read as part of the linky party on Sarah Quilts called you show me yours, I'll show you mine. Some of the stashes were impressive and tidy. I figured it was my turn.

I've divided my quilting fabrics into a few categories - the ones I'm putting into this drawer are less than 1 yard but all are at least 8 x 12 inches. I have another pile of bigger pieces more than a yard. And a pile of big scraps that I will throw into a box.

One thing that this exercise has shown me is that there are some colours I have a lot of and others that I don't. I'm surprised by all the browns and the lack of greens (I always use green) - who knew?

I have a few lingering projects to deal to and then I'm planning another stash-busting project. As you can see, there is no room for any more purchases - this is a bad thing!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How I started quilting

Each month on Block Lotto Sophie suggests a topic or question for the weekend update. This month's question is "How did you start quilting?"

I suspect I am like many who drifted in and out of quilting without actually creating a quilt. My mother is a quilter and I can distinctly recall many quilts that she started but not many that she finished. I still go into her studio and dig out the blue fan blocks that she started piecing by hand out of Laura Ashley prints - I think I was 7 when she started that one.

My story is much the same. I have always sewn and done crafts since I was taught to use a sewing machine at age 9. I had a part time job at Joanne's while in university and made many of my clothes. I started my first quilt when I went to stay with my parents while they were living in Cyprus - this was when I was 21. I was bored out of my mind and thought it would be a good activity to make a quilt (between getting sunburned at the beach and hanging out with the Marine guards from the embassy). I drafted a block using graph paper and cut out the templates using plastic. I bought some fabric locally and stole some from my mother's stash. I chose yellow and blue - I seemed to find a lot of them and they were my university colours.

I managed to make about 4 of these blocks and the fabrics, templates, and finished blocks followed me back to the USA, around the country, and eventually to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, I had started and finished my first quilt in 2010. This one for my bedroom to go with the new wallpaper that I had put on the panels behind my bed. Although this is my first finished quilt, it is not the first I started, so it only half counts as my first.

At about the same time, a week before my cousin was coming to visit, I tried to clear out the closet of the guest room. I found 5 unfinished quilts - some of them baby quilts for children ready to go off to college. I vowed to get them all finished in the year.

November 2010 was when I finished that first started quilt. I thought the colour scheme was ghastly, so I added some green to the mix. Those first blocks were terrible too, but I was determined to keep them. The finished quilt is queen sized and is made up of 25 12" blocks. I did not know how to speed piece the HST so each triangle was cut and sewn in a pair (I have learned much since then).

The one pink star was to introduce the pink from the backing fabric.

Although my tastes have changed, I love this quilt. It lives at our beach house and I am happy to see it every time we are there. Must be time for another visit (if this horrible rain ever stops).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What to do with of all these scraps

My recent flurry of activity is slowing down. I still have some threads to deal with on the green hexi quilt (I'm calling it Hexi-bee now). This is not a very inspiring task, so I thought it was time to find some creative ways to deal to my stash.

One of the problems that I have (I am not alone) is that because I don't use patterns and tend to make things up as I go I never know how much fabric to buy. Add to this my need to have a wide variety of fabric mixed into every quilt. The end result is that I always buy too much fabric. Way too much.

When I first started playing Block Lotto a few years ago, I had to go out and buy fabric to make many of the blocks - "oh no, I don't have any blue fabric, I'll have to buy some." This is no longer a problem.

On the weekend I stopped in to a quilt show called Road to Colour. It was very inspiring - the hall was filled with bright colours, many courtesy of Kaffe Fassett. The quilts gave me a lot of ideas about using up my stash. So many of the quilts used lots of different fabrics all mixed together without looking old fashioned scrappy. Let's call it new fashioned scrappy.

One particular quilt caught my eye. (I don't remember who made it, sorry.) It was made up of string-pieced diamonds using dark and light fabrics. I've started my own version using warm and cool colours.

The size of the block was determined by the size of my phone book which I am using to foundation piece the strips so that they don't get too wavy.

Each string rectangle is trimmed down to 7" x 9-1/2" and then cut along the diagonal. I do this in sets of 4 with two rectangles of each colour. I stack one warm and one cool rectangle face up and cut from corner to corner (for example, upper left to lower right). I then repeat the process cutting the second pair on the other diagonal (for example, upper right to lower left).

Match the left warm triangle with the right cool triangle (and so on) to make 4 sets. Sew them together. I've been pressing the centre seams open to reduce the bulk. These 4 rectangles can be arranged to make a diamond (either ward in the middle or cool in the middle).

Half-rectangle triangles do not behave nicely like half-square triangles. They need to be cut, rotated, and matched in pairs. I tried sewing either side of the diagonal like I normally do with a HST and I made two kites (now I know how to do that if the need arises).

I can't complain though, they are going together quickly. I am debating if I should just use the warm and cool diamonds or if I should make a border with neutral darks and lights (I have lots of blacks, greys, and beiges). I will need to do a few to see how it looks - maybe that will end up being the start of a second quilt.

No specific plan for this one. Maybe it's time to give a few away.

Linking up with Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Almost finished

My Monday Modern quilters bee block quilt is almost done. I finished the binding on Sunday night so that I could bring it along to our monthly meeting. BUT, there are still the threads to deal with.

I never know the best method for finishing off the threads. In this case, I have a lot of them. I'm still grappling with the compromises that I need to make when quilting on a frame with a domestic machine. If I had done this using FMQ, I wouldn't have nearly as many threads to deal with - but, the quilting would have taken me 4 times longer. Which is worse? I don't know.

This time I'm threading each loose end onto a needle and embedding it into the batting. This is the best way I know to prevent the stitches from pulling out. In this case, it's tedious - I've calculated that I have at least 12x39+20 threads to put through the eye of my needle and tuck in. Ouch! (Why do I count these things?)

Sometimes I just clip them off and hope for the best. So far, this has worked fine. For wall hangings or pillows I knot them on the back. This time I wanted a more professional finish, so I am struggling to get it done.

I'll do another post on the the whole quilt once all those pesky threads are gone. Meanwhile, I'm counting this one as a work in progress (WIP) and linking up on Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

Plaid quilt #2 finished (a while ago)

I finished this quilt quite a few weeks ago, but never managed to post it. Then, I discovered where I hadn't quite caught the binding and then I spilled tea on it. So, I finally fixed the binding, put it into the wash, and now it's ready for prime time.

This is the second quilt that I made using the 48 blocks I won from Block Lotto last April. The first quilt has a more traditional setting with sashing and borders. This one I set on point with offset rows. It was an experiment on how different I could make them, and I think I succeeded. Here's a comparison of the two quilts.

I backed this one with two bright fabrics that I picked up on sale. I like that I can use almost anything on the back of a scrappy quilt and it still matches.

The quilting was done on my Swiftquilter with a Juki TL98P machine. It was my first quilt using this setup and my first using feathers. I'm pleased with the results and found that the allover pattern was quick and painless.

This one finished up at 53" square which makes a generous lap quilt. Thank you again all of the lovely ladies who participate in Block Lotto who made this quilt possible.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Little pillow for a friend

A lovely lady that I work with is in the hospital after having major surgery. I have been filling in for her (and not doing such a great job). I wanted to give her something to help cheer her up and didn't want to bring the usual flowers and I think chocolate is out of the question.

So, of course, I decided to make her something. I thought that a little pillow would be 'quick and easy' and maybe even useful while sitting in a hospital bed for a week (or 2). I do have a problem - not recognised as a diagnosable personality disorder - but a problem none the less. I cannot choose the quick and easy road. I have to do things 'right'. Not perfect, but right.

So, I could have made a single layer pieced pillow, stuffed it with fill, and then stitched it up. And, at 1am this morning, I regretted my choice. Instead, I have quilted the front and back, made the cover removable and created a pillow inner that can be removed (no running to the shop for a pillow insert at this time of night).

This morning I discovered that we were out of coffee, so I am tired and grumpy. Luckily I am alone in the office today and there is a cafe less than 100m away. That's where I'm going right now.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Getting ready to quilt the hexis

I finished piecing the quilt top last week and have been trying to figure out how I will quilt it. (The photo looks a bit odd because I have to 'glue' two photos together into one.)

Because this quilt was made from bee blocks made by the Monday Modern quilters, I wanted to do 'modern' quilting. But, I can't come up with anything modern except for painful stitch in the ditch or carefully-marked diagonal cross-hatching. Neither of these appeal.

So, after staring at my quilt hanging on the wall for the past week, I can't help seeing flowers in a field of grass. And when I think hexagons, I think bees.

So, some doodling has resulted in this plan.

Not a great rendition - it will be easier to do on my Swiftquilter than using my right-handed mouse (especially because I am left handed). The bee will take some practice, but I only plan on including a few.

This quilt is the largest of the ones I've done on my Swiftquilter and is just slightly (2 inches) too big to fit on the un-extended frame. Hubby helped add the extension on and I now have a 9-foot contraption sitting in my living room. It seems like overkill for the extra couple of inches, but from experience it's better to have a lot of room on the edges as a staging area for the machine. The last quilt I did maxed out the space and I had to reach under the quilt to change my bobbins.

Speaking of bobbins, how many will it take to quilt this? It's a problem to stop and refill them and I go through a lot. I am guessing 10-12. But, it's impractical to fill up so many (do I even have enough), so I do them in batches of 4.

Hubby and daughter are away skiing next week, so this will be my opportunity to stay up late and get this done. It needs to be finished by 5 August, so I better get moving!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy Independence Day (a week late)

Last week I was sure that I would have this done on 4 July, but ran into a few snags and didn't finish until a few days later. The rush to post it was gone.

I started this quilt as part of a challenge for the Modern Modern quilters. The challenge was to make a small modern quilt inspired by traditional quilts. This is my entry, although the whole challenge thing seems to have disappeared and we are simply adding them to our upcoming exhibition.

Last year while in the US I saw a some very traditional quilts in Williamsburg, VA. They were green and red Baltimore Album style quilts. Many of them included a patriotic motif and this has been an ongoing theme in many quilts in the US for the past 200 years.

My modern flag is a study in using one colour (is it even a colour?). There are probably about 25 fabrics grouped light, medium, and dark to represented white, red, and blue. (I did not include every grey in my stash, by the way.)

I didn't have a grand plan when I started out and as usual had to improvise a bit with the sizing and relative proportions. After starting, I looked up the official sizes of the flag components and realised why mine was starting to look funny. The end result is slightly off the standard dimensions, but it's close enough for me.

I quilted each stripe with a different pattern - a new take on the sampler - and did a stipple around the 'stars'. I used a wool batting that is puffier than my usual cotton batting (something I found lurking in the back of the closet). I like the effect, especially on the stars.

Happy 11th of July!!