Monday, May 27, 2013

Something grey

The Monday Modern Quilters are planning an exhibition in one of Auckland's historic houses. Part of this includes a small challenge quilt which is a modern interpretation of a traditional idea. I like to think that most of the quilts that I make 'from scratch' fall into this category, but maybe not. For some reason I have been struggling with this challenge. I have had lots of ideas, but I worry that they are not 'modern' enough. This is probably because some of my trademarks are not necessarily aligned with what some people think of as modern.

Last week, I decided to move forward without reservation. My first decision was about the colour selection. I have been enamoured by grey for a while now and decided it was time to pull all of my greys out and have a look through them. I was surprised how many I have collected. I debated adding a bit of colour, some chalky blue solids perhaps, but decided against that.

I'm keeping my overall design a bit of a secret for now, but am working on some of the sections of the quilt that I will share with you. So far, I've made a bunch of square in square blocks. I like the chevron designs that have magically appeared between the light squares when I sewed them into staggered rows.

The next part of the quilt requires about 300+ little rectangles which I am cutting out now. All of the pieces are quite small because the finished quilt is small (about 30"x45"). I tried to get them all cut out this weekend, but my new toy got in the way. I'm on my own next weekend, so no excuses.

A new toy to play with

On the weekend I picked up a new toy that I purchased on Trade Me (the NZ equivalent of eBay). For those of you that read about my experimentation with the borrowed Handi Quilter a month ago, you will know that I had some problems. So, I went looking for a better (I hope) solution.

This solution comprises a NZ made Swiftquilter frame, a Juki TL98 machine, and integrated handles and speed controls. You may be aware that I recently took over the agency for Juki domestic machines - the man who was the agent designed and manufactured the Swiftquilter as well. We may be adding it to our product line, so I wanted one to play with.

I enlisted my hubby to put it all together. This turned out to be quite straight forward. The frame goes together easily and sits on top of a trestle table. With the help of a spirit level and some bits of wood and cardboard, DH had it leveled and ready to go within 45 minutes (trestle tables and old floors are never straight).

I decided that it would be prudent to create a test quilt made up of a scrap of batting and some unbleached muslin (calico) that I had lying around. I also used 'any-old' thread (maybe not such a great idea - I had some breakages).

Loading the quilt layers is a little fiddly, but I had to remind myself that pin basting even a small quilt can be very time consuming and the results are rarely perfectly smooth. Once loaded, it was ready to go.

Having two sets of handles - one on each side of the machine - made it possible to stand on either side of the table. The controls can be used to switch on/off the machine or I can hold down a button to run it. There is also a speed setting on the controls. This means I don't have to use the foot pedal which was pretty tricky to do the last time I tried this.

The Juki TL98 is a domestic version of an industrial machine - it is heavy, fast, and only goes straight. An ideal machine for this application because FMQ is seriously hard on sewing machines. The speed is a bit daunting (it goes twice as fast as any normal domestic machine). At first I shied away from the speed, but after practicing for a few minutes I cranked it up and found that the stitches were much more even at higher speeds.

This setup, like any similar setup (including a 'true' longarm) does limit your quilting designs. I suspect that I will eventually sort out what works best and perhaps use a combination of the frame and my usual FMQ techniques to customise my quilting. It is obvious to me though, that if I want a repeated all-over design, this setup would allow me to do that in a fraction of the time it usually takes me.

One drawback - my living room is now a quilting studio. My daughter was away this weekend, but when she came back she complained that she could not hear Adventure Time on Cartoon Network over the machine. Heaven forbid she misses out on the intelligent commentary of Jake the dog!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Phone cover

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new phone. It's a fancy (and expensive) thing that I am just getting the hang of. I do know that I will need to change my data plan - it seems to jump onto the internet all of the time without asking permission.

After 3 days in my handbag, I realised that it would not last long without a cover. I thought I could just buy one, but since it is neither an iphone nor a Samsung Galaxy, that appeared to be out of the question. Making one seemed the only solution.

I debated a few designs including wrist straps and pockets for money. But, I decided on something simple - a little sleeping bag of sorts.

The fabric is one of the many woodland creature fabrics I picked up before Christmas for my advent calendar. The lining I had for some reason. I pulled a button from the button tin and the elastic was stolen from DD's drawer of hair accessories. It took less than an hour to make and I've had so many comments about it. I might end up making a bunch more - one to suit every mood.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What am I up to?

Somehow weeks have gone by without me noticing. Lots of excuses, but do you really want to know them all?

I have been busy - first, my husband and I have a new business as the agents for JUKI home sewing machines. Although they are the largest manufacturer of sewing machines in the world, they are mostly know for their industrial machines. Initially, we will be selling select models direct through quilt/craft shows and online. Watch this space.

Since my last post, I have rescued my string hearts quilt from the disastrous quilting experience that I had with the Handi Quilter. I have not given up on the idea of using this approach but this was just not the right setup for me (part of the new business will also include the SwiftQuilter - a NZ manufactured table-top frame).

I unpicked some quilting but eventually had to sacrifice a whole row and make more blocks. I had a couple others from the Block Lotto that I used on this row too.

I did the quilting using a combination of straight stitching around the hearts, free-motion flowers in the space between the hearts, and a last-minute addition of decorative stitching down the 'spine' of each heart (mainly to reduce puffiness).

The little quilt is sweet and looks lovely and crinkly out of the dryer. No plans for it - probably will end up on the growing pile in the living room now that the nights are getting colder.

A few months ago the Monday Modern Quilters had a challenge to make a cushion using some curves and using free-motion quilting. I resorted to pulling out my drunkards path templates and made blue polka-dots on a beige background.

The back of the cushion is a piece of fabric that my mother bought me (along with some others, including the binding fabric) that match my living room furniture.

I did quite a bit of quilting on this one and am pleased with the results. I decided to bind it like a quilt and I love the way it looks like piping. Surprisingly someone else in the group did the same thing (honest, it was just a coincidence). I'm hoping to do a few others in similar but different designs.