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.

Panama Pyramids

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.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Simplicity 1920 - a (much) repeated pattern for the win

A couple of years ago I muslined up a top from the Simplicity 1920 pattern. It was a disaster, mainly because of the w-i-d-e neckline that left me a wee bit frustrated when it came to making the top sit nicely on my shoulders. Without showing bra strap. Yeah, that.

However towards the end of last year I had a wedding to go to and little time to make a nice top, so I reached for Simplicity 1920 as it was the shape of top I was after. I added about an inch to the neckline, ignored the shoulder/sleeve vents, and made it in red silk.

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It was lovely. I still wear it each week, but making it without the sleeve vents was a massive mistake. I have narrow shoulders and, thanks to swimming every day, guns. I needed that space in my sleeve to allow movement (and gun-flexing).

I wanted to make it again, in linen this time for my long summer staycation.  So I made three.

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I made this one first out of a yellow hanky linen I'd purchased from Addicted to Fabric a couple of years ago. Its my favourite.

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Siobhan and I went to Addicted the day before New Years Eve - her to get buttons and my opinion, and me to pick up a white linen and another nice plain colour that would go with most of my summer skirts.   This olive green is such a gorgeous colour. I made this top on New Year's Eve and wore it out to the movies that night. It gets worn constantly.

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I'm not much of a white fabric fan, but heck - it goes with everything.

In the last week of my staycation I dedicated my sewing to work clothes. So I cracked open the Liberty stash. I'd never sewn with Liberty in my life. I was justifiably nervous.

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This is the "Kussman" print with Icelandic horses. I bought the fabric at Addicted ages ago. I really, really love this top. I've already worn it to work with a black-grey textured skirt and it's not often I get compliments on what I sew but there were compliments. Lots of them.

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And this is Liberty's "Wiltshire Berry" fabric. I bought it at Shinjuku's Okadaya in Tokyo. I always thought it would be perfect with a black skirt, so I made a black skirt too. The fabric is unbelievably pretty.

I'm not sick of this pattern yet at all. I've cut out another two tops for work in the last week, and I made up one during Canberra Sewing Crew social sewing yesterday. I almost finished another, but I made a massive mistake in overlocking the neckline because it was fraying badly, and then slicing into the neck with my overlocker blade. Such a rookie mistake - I was embarassed. So it's sitting in the naughty corner for now until I can work out how to fix it.

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Here's the version I made yesterday. I used a beautiful printed lawn from Tomato in Tokyo. It has toadstools and squirrels and owls and bunnies on it. I will never be too old to wear fabric with those things on them.

Since my red silk version, I've added between 1 and 1 1/2 inches to the neckline, both front and back. It seems to work for me. Weirdly the bust darts are in the right place for me, when normally they are too high. I actually have never followed the pattern instructions for this, so I don't know whether I'm supposed to make the bias for the neckline, or even if there is a bias. But I just use store bought bias binding. It works for me, and for this top.


I've added the line drawing for the pattern here to demonstrate the wide and low neckline. I'd also really like to make that jacket, but without all the shirring on the sleeve and back.

All up, it's a simple but really nice top, and very comfortable to wear. I take my time with making it - doing all the top stitching of the vents and arm holes, and it probably takes less than two hours, including cutting. It's a good, versatile pattern, and definitely a key article when it comes to building a basic wardrobe.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Unblogged: Hot Flush Diamonds

In undertaking the great sort-out of Spring-Summer 2015/16, I've discovered a few unblogged quilts , so I thought I might start a series called The Unblogged. Knowing me, I'll still be blogging the unblogged until 2017, but to show you how dedicated I am, here's the first Unblogged.

Hot Flush Diamonds

It's a monster and it was too big for the clothes line and too heavy for anyone to lift so I cleaned out my closet of skirt hangers and got the ladder out to hang the quilt on the tallest gutters of my house. Oh, and it's 36 degrees celcius outside and SCORCHING. You're welcome.

I started this quilt at a Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably workshop almost 5 years ago.  Good Lord. I finished it last summer, I think. I only say that because I really can't remember, but I do remember suffocating under this huge quilt last summer, so perhaps.

Hot Flush Diamonds

I didn't have much of a clue when I was putting this together. I followed the pattern for Cool Diamonds (from the book "Kaleidoscope of Quilts") to a tee, which meant the quilt size was much bigger than was practical. We have a low queen sized bed, and this quilt is really more a king sized or bedspread size. It's so long it hangs to the floor, and I can tuck my pillows underneath it. Not the most practical size, and also very heavy. So this quilt doesn't get used too often, but it really is very pretty to look at.

Hot Flush Diamonds

Raylee from Sunflower Quilting quilted it in an orange Rasant Thread and I really like it. I didn't want the quilting to blend in, and I wanted it to acknowledge the amount of orange that had crept into the quilt.

Hot Flush Diamonds

I backed it with Martha Negley bamboo print and some spare Kaffe from the binding fabric.

Hot Flush Diamonds

I called it Hot Flush Diamonds because in the book there is a Cool Diamonds pattern, and a Hot Diamonds pattern. I'm pretty sure they are identical except for the colours used. I started out with a cool green quilt but it was bland, so we added orange and suddenly it wasn't such a cool quilt anymore. There were definite temperature spikes in there. Hot Flush. Enough said.