Thursday, September 29, 2016

365 Stars

I love birthdays. A lot of people don't, for their own reasons, and that's fine. But five years ago some horrible stuff happened and I almost died, and since then I have tried really hard to see the good side of things, to enjoy every little moment, and to make the most of what I have been given. It gets a little tough sometimes, especially in the last 18 months with my husband picking up a disability, and with our families so far away. But we get by, and we still live a happy and simple life.

For my birthday this year I decided to start a new quilt project (surprise surprise), but with a bit of a twist. I'm going to make a star block every day for 365 days. And it's not just any star block.

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It's a teensy weensy star, and it's English paper pieced!

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I've made one every day for the last three days, starting on my birthday on the 27th but my husband bought me the papers as my birthday present over a month ago so I've been slowly preparing fabrics since then.

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I had decided I wasn't going to fussy cut any of the fabrics, but then the papers arrived and I realised the pieces were a lot smaller than I thought. So now if the fabric deserves to be fussed over, I will. Perhaps.

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Each star takes about 25 minutes or so. I've been sewing them after I have my shower and breakfast, while drinking my coffee, in the time I'd usually take to read the morning paper. It certainly makes me a lot less stressed in the morning, I've noticed. Some days I'll end up doing it in the evening, but as I've discovered, life is too short for hard and fast rules, and it's only quilting.

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I'm using the pattern by Karen Styles of Somerset Designs. The pattern arrived with the plastic templates, but because I decided to EPP it instead of hand piecing, I got the papers and acrylic templates from Paper Pieces. I still haven't got much of a plan for these stars.

I'll probably just make it up as I go along. Should be fun!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Because quilting = pure joy

Gosh I'm loving quilting at the moment. I'm loving it so much that I have finished all but one of my Lucy Boston blocks.

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(This is the view that greeted me when I was closing the curtains in the living room after dusk on Friday night. It's my sewing room from across the deck. We are so lucky to live in this old house.)

I also made plans for two new quilts - one I will tell you about in a couple of weeks, but the other is the Stepping Stones quilt by Irene Blanck. It has octagons and squares. I've loved this pattern for a long time, but then it popped up in the last Quiltmania issue. I've already made two blocks and goodness me I love them! The octagons and squares are 3/4 inch, which makes a small square but a large octagon. Perfect size for EPP.

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And I don't think I ever told you about Project 48 - it's a year long quilt with one block being issued a week. I started around Easter - a few months after most other people - and have made only half of the blocks so far, but it's been a lot of fun. Here are a few of the blocks.

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I also headed up to Sydney by myself a couple of weeks ago for a QuiltNSW general meeting. After over 20 years of us only owning one car, I bought a second car earlier this year. But because I mostly ride my bike to work each day it hadn't done many kilometres. And I felt like having a few hours alone listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (loudly) and working out the cruise control so off to Sydney I went for the day. I'd never been to a meeting before, but it was a wonderful day spent stitching, talking with old friends and making new ones. And it was informative as well with the guest speaker being Sarah Fielke talking about her old and new quilts the guild business meeting taking place, and Rachael was also there talking about her Best of Show quilt.

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By the end of the day I felt a little bit tired but also exhilarated and inspired. It was such a fantastic Saturday. I'm so glad I'm a member of QuiltNSW - the members and committee have always been nothing less than welcoming to me since I joined a few years ago. I'm not as elegant with my words as Rachael, so head over to her blog post for more on the day. I can't wait to go to another meeting - hopefully I can get to the next one in October.

I think a lot of my love of quilting at the moment has to do with not having any exhibition deadlines hanging over me. As much as I don't let quilting stress or burn me out, I never realise how much of a commitment of time I've promised to it until the date of entry has passed and I suddenly have some free time. It's fun just creating for the heck of it when I have the time and the inclination to stitch.  Long may it continue!

(My garden is looking a bit weedy at the moment though! And I have a lot of quilts to blog.)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I love Lucy

Back when the Sydney Quilt Show was still at Darling Harbour (probably in 2013), I purchased a pattern called "Lucy in a Hurry" from Cherry Pie Designs. It was a different EPP shape, and the block came out quite large so I thought I could have a crack at it with my usual brighter fabrics rather than the reproductions in the pattern. I remember getting home to Canberra and putting in an order for the papers and template, and I got started soon after they arrived.

Lucy in a Hurry block

I happily made nine blocks of the sixteen blocks required, and then glued them all on background fabric ready for appliqueing. I think I sewed two down ... and then got so bored I put them on the shelf and didn't give them much more thought.

Lucy in a Hurry block

While I was finishing off the large Lotta quilt, I rediscovered them and decided to finish off the nine I had to put into a quilt, and call it done. After all, this year I have only finished two quilts and that just annoys the heck out of me. Also my sewing room is getting out of control - an unavoidable annoyance when you both quilt and sew clothes. There are gadgets for just about everything, and fabric for quilts and clothing and oh my. You should see it. You should see the floor. It's not pretty.

For the last week when I've had fidgetty fingers after work, I've been appliquing those blocks down. I now have six. I ran into Carol from Cherry Pie Designs yesterday at the Canberra Quilt Show, and said how easy they were to applique - really they would probably take only an hour.

Lucy in a Hurry block

Guys, today I timed myself, and it took exactly 35 minutes while watching the Nadal-Del Potro replay.

Lucy in a Hurry blocks appliqued

WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. HECK.  What a waste of time having such lovely blocks sitting in the corner for so long. These are the six I've done so far - I'll finish the rest tonight. And then I'm going to start making the other seven blocks and finish the quilt. I have some gorgeous fabric and scraps in the stash and I can't wait to see how they all go together. It will take a bit longer to finish now, but it will be worth it.

I hunted through the sewing room this afternoon and found the papers, but no template. I found a quilting hoop, the missing snips I bought at a quilt show three years ago (yay), and some threads from a prize that I'd forgotten I had, but the template took about an hour of tossing things upside down before I found it.

Lucy Boston honeycomb template

Sure I'll start making more blocks, but perhaps I should give my sewing room a big clean first.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Zen and the Art of Quilting in a Straight Line

First up, the two pyramid blocks I was still owed from the last post. I made these on Saturday morning before I basted the monster quilt.

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And I basted the monster, so I've earned another pyramid block.

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But first, the quilting. (I get two blocks once this is done!) I've given myself a week to finish it.

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It will be a tight timeframe, but I'm really loving quilting this. It's the biggest quilt I've even quilted myself, and I'm realising, while it's all just straight lines, that I really have to practice my breathing while doing this. Shoulders down, back straight, eyes down, breathe.  Relax. Sew.

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I took a rare afternoon off work today, and went to the National Gallery today to experience some incredible Australian quilts in the Collection Studies Room with some other Canberra Quilters. I saw a Mary Jane Hannaford quilt up close, and a log cabin quilt by Sarah Monument with the most exquisitely tiny blocks. There was also a crazy quilt made with gorgeous laces and hat trimmings. It made me think about the time these women spent making their quilts - I doubt they ever thought their work would end up in the National Gallery! They would have worked at night time, after the day was over, with poor light and by hand. My quilt was pieced by hand but under strong light, and it is being quilted by machine. But I'm tired when I get to quilting, as they probably were, but I tell you, I sleep especially well after an hour or two of quilting this beast (and you should see my biceps!)

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Monday, July 11, 2016

The reward system

Nine days ago, I realised I had a massive EPP quilt to finish piecing, then applique the sides on, baste, quilt, bind, sleeve and label. In just 27 days.
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I now have 18 days left but at least I'm a little closer.
That reward system I mentioned in my last post has definitely been doing the trick. Because I love making the pyramid blocks so much (and also Liberty. Total swoon), having that little carrot at the end of each task has helped break up the tedium of a boring queen sized quilt.

I prepared 11 blocks, and divided them up into rewards for milestones. I'm allowing myself to make one block at the end of each process:
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  • Finish the EPP 
  • Pull the papers out and starch the edges 
  • Trim the side borders and glue EPP top to them
  • Applique by hand
  • Sew the backing
  • Baste the quilt
  • Quilt - I'm allowing myself two blocks for the epic task of quilting a queen sized quilt
  • Bind by machine
  • Sew down by hand
  • Label and sleeve
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So far I've made two blocks. I actually have another two blocks owing to me, but I'm saving them up till I can find my sewing machine amongst the rubble of quilt show prizes on the sewing table at the moment (a BOX of rulers! Can you even imagine what that looks like or how amazing it is?). Of course, the moment I can find my sewing machine, I'm going to be piecing the backing. Gotcha. Another block rewarded.

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I have used basting glue a heap of times, usually for little blocks or little quilts. I've never basted a large top to long strips of fabric before, as I did with this quilt to give it grey homespun sides. NEVER AGAIN. What a messy, fiddly crawling-on-the-floor job that was. But the sides are on now, and appliqued down, and my butt muscles have recovered. Maybe I'll do it again ...

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I really need to stop blogging about it and get moving - 4 years in the making (I started it during the last Olympic Games!) means it's definitely time to to finish it and get it on my bed.

Anyone want to come over and help me baste it? I promise toned abs and tight butt muscles by the end of it.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

On slow stitching, and joining in

I am a slow quilter.. Most of my quilts are hand pieced or appliqued, and in the last few years I have resisted the fad of making "quick quilts" unless absolutely necessary (group quilts and emergency hugs are exceptions). It makes blogging about quilting extremely boring when everything I make is works in progress, but that's who I am as a quilter and I'm proud of that. I take my time. I procrastinate. I start new things.

Panama Pyramids

In my last post I shared that I was joining a sewalong to make the Panama Pyramids quilt by Linda from Quilts in the Barn. It's taking place on Facebook, and other quilters' versions are all so different and lovely that I couldn't resist making my own. I purchased the plastic templates from Linda at the Sydney quilt show and since I've been home in Canberra I've been thinking about fabrics and colours.

In the end I decided on Liberty. Between a Liberty club I was in for a year, and my dressmaking scraps, I have accumulated a fair bit of it.

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The templates make life so much easier, and not being the most accurate machine piecer in the world, they certainly help out in that department. That's not to say there isn't an element of wonk in my of the blocks I've made so far, though.

Panama Pyramids

Last night I spent the evening cutting out a heap of blocks. Remember that queen sized quilt I entered into the Canberra quilt show? I have exactly 28 days to finish it, and I've prepared some blocks as little rewards for when the applique gets boring, the quilting makes no sense, and I'm sick of putting on another bloody sleeve.

Panama Pyramids

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sydney Quilt Show

Well hi there! It's been almost 5 months since my last post. Life got a little, ah... well I won't say "busy" but a better word is "distracted".  My husband had a second hip surgery in early February and then had (and still has) some pretty serious complications, so there was that. And I started a new job in an entirely new field, so there was that too. And I'm running the house single handed and becoming a master of the meal prep, so again. And I entered the Sydney Quilt Show with a quilt that wasn't even a finished top yet.

(People (of the flummoxed type, I expect) sometimes ask why I enter quilt shows given that while I am obsessed with quilting, I don't take the whole exhibition and judging thing or even quilting seriously. AT ALL.  Look people - if you haven't worked it out yet, it's so I have a reason to finish quilts.)

So I entered the quilt show with an unfinished quilt, and I worked really, really hard to finish it. And it totally paid off, because not only did I get a quilt finished, I also got this!

Seven Garden Maze - second place

I got a phone call from the President on the Sunday morning before the show that I had won "something" and to say I was shocked would be an understatement. In fact, when I was standing with my friends at the awards ceremony last Wednesday I was convinced, after they had called out the judges commendations for the small or wall quilt (amateur) category, that they had made a mistake in calling me, so sure was I that it must be one of those awards. Nope. Second.

Being awarded second place, small quilts category.

Yep. Chuffed.

With my quilt, just after pinning it.

The quilt is called Seven Garden Maze and was designed by my good friend Cathy Miller, also known as the Singing Quilter.  She made hers originally in silk dupioni and it is STUNNING.  I decided to pick homespun for my version (solids, the cool kids call it) except for the ocean blue which is a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton. The borders of each maze are not black, but very dark brown (from memory Kona Espresso).

Pinning the ribbon

Each hexagon is 1/2 inch. I machine quilted each wedge from side to side to form it's own secondary labyrinth. I also faced it with 1/2 hexagons because quite clearly I was insane - just this sewing of facings took me a couple of weeks. I handed in the quilt to the person-before-the-dropoff-person just in time.

On the early morning ferry with Team Di

So Sydney! It was pretty spectacular. I spent 6 days up there, and unlike last year I didn't injure my back the night before, or get laryngitis while I was there. So this year I got to talk! And walk! And spend heaps of time with friends new and old. I had a fantastic time. I spent three days at the quilt show, mostly volunteering, with the highlight being day one. A group of us friends stood together at the awards ceremony, and then this happened (and this is only a few of us who won ribbons - aren't we a talented bunch?)...

Jennifer Davis wins second in Commercially Quilted category

Beth Miller wins first in Pictorial Quilts category

Rachaeldaisy wind first in Anything Goes Mixed media category

The biggest surprise though was when my lovely friend Rachaeldaisy won best of show! I've stolen this photo quite blatantly from the guild's Facebook page, because it is just so classic (and we were all a bit emotional!).

Rachaeldaisy winning Best of Show

What else about Sydney? Oh there is so much. I took photos of quilts but don't have permission from the makers to post them (because I forgot to ask), so instead if you want to see some winning quilts (including Rachael's amazing masterpiece) go to the QuiltNSW website.

Oh, and one last thing. I decided to start another new thing (all the other new things are meant to be in a post all of their own, there are so many) and this new thing is the Panama Pyramids sewalong. Linda Collins from Quilts in the Barn is running the sewalong and while she was working at the Quiltmania stand during the show, she brought along the original antique quilt that launched a 590 member sewalong. And I got to hold it and stroke it and really appreciate that amazing yellow. Aren't I lucky? It's absolutely beautiful.

Holding Linda's original Panama pyramids quilt

It was a fantastic show. Heck - it was a fantastic week! A friend came to stay for a couple of days early on and we went to the Isabella Blow and Collette Dinnigan exhibitions. I had dinner with friends, and the Sydney Spoolettes. I met up with my quilting friends at the show each day, met some online friends finally, had a little meet up with some beautiful women from The Applique Guild of Australia who were visiting the show and I got to take the first and last ferries from Circular Quay with my friends Di and Di most days.

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By Saturday I was buggered and so ready to go home so I got to the airport a bit earlier and sat in the sun at Gate 19 and stitched some of Chester Criswell while watching the planes take off and land. That was nice. I might have snoozed a bit. And since I got home to Canberra I have been absolutely freezing after the warmth in Sydney. But I can't wait for next year.

I've entered the Canberra quilt show in August with another unfinished work in progress. I have 32 days to finish it. And it's queen sized. Ha.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

An update on Chester

Since I last wrote about my Chester Criswell quilt 5 week ago, I've managed to make seven blocks. SEVEN! I'm not too sure how that happened as it seems like such a rare thing to have the time to sit on my butt and sew, but being a massive tennis fan probably helped, as did a four week holiday and then yesterday (when I made my seventh block) sitting by a hospital bed.

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Guys, this is Rachel Dickey. Rachel, meet everyone.

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Mary Wilson. This block proved I really need to mark out my appliqué piece placement before I pin the pieces down. That top right red tulip bit was unpicked twice. Single piece blocks are so much easier.

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Jesse Jackson Smith was appliquéd in a night. So fast. Single piece block - see what I mean?

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Lovely Eliza Whiteside with her inability to trace and cut the pattern properly. I love that this block has replicated the original with all its faults. And then I've added some faults of my own (all charming ones of course).

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Adaline Gibson was another quick block - done over two nights. She's my 15th block, and marked the end of the 15 background blocks I'd precut a few years ago. Time to cut some more. Luckily I have a stash of text fabric.

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This was finished during the men's tennis semi final last weekend - Elizabeth Cummins. I love those little hearts, and how it looks like people holding hands. I thought the fabric would give me a headache, but it didn't (this photo does though).

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Elizabeth Crosby, also known as The Deathstar (seriously!) because of this photo:

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After I got back from the hospital last night, I put all 17 blocks on the design wall to decide where to go, along with some prepared blocks. I have also prepared a massive 24 inch block which was made by the bride's mother. It is very intricate and looks very difficult and I worry that such a huge block will detract from the look I have going on here. I will leave it on the design wall a bit longer and have more of a think. I want to make 25 blocks, and this block would mean I wouldn't have to make 4 of them. But then again ... so many curves and corners to be done, and it is kind of intimidating.

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Where to from here? But do I want to hand quilt it? Machine quilt it? Enter it in a quilt show this year? I don't know, but I know I have rediscovered my love for these blocks and I just can't see myself stopping making them for quite a while. Also I'm on carer's leave for the week while my husband recovers from another hip surgery so I'm sure there will be stitching during the napping.