Monday, 8 December 2014

Colours of the Season

Just by chance I seem to be working in Christmas colours at the moment - definitely going through a 'red phase'. I doubt there will be another finish before the end of the year but two projects are getting close.

Stars meet Hexagons ( my version of the quilt from the book 'Promenade in a Dutch Garden')

The centre is finished and all papers removed. Now for the outer border.

First I stitched on a 6 inch solid border in a dark beige/ light tan shade. 

I love the antique Dutch quilt on which this pattern was based - with its amazing applique border. Here is a picture from the book.

I pulled out some red fabrics (toiles and florals) to see if I could maybe, perhaps, give a broderie perse applique border a try - but it wasn't working for me. So what to do? 

I fussy cut the fabrics and prepped 1 inch English Paper Pieced hexagons - the same size used in the centre of my quilt top.

...and made some 'daisy chains'. I'm sure you can guess where this is going. Hopefully there will be more to show next post.

Meanwhile I have really enjoyed hand quilting my Four Block Applique quilt - and true Christmas colours there. 

Here is the quilt with all outline hand quilting done - around every applique shape. In this light my thoughts are "not nice, not nice at all - definitely more quilting needed!"

Adding some centre grid work to the blocks:

Adding parallel lines on the background. For this I am marking only by scoring the fabric - it shows up beautifully in the hoop and disappears under the stitches. 

I've discovered I can download library audio books onto my ipad and listen as I stitch - what a fabulous free service ! I can hand applique, hand piece or knit while watching TV - but I just cannot hand quilt and watch. So the audio books are perfect. 

A friend and I had a do-it-yourself Christmas Card workshop at my house - hoping for a patchwork look with fabric and stitching. It was lots of fun but I'll not be making a business of it - strained my creativity to the very limit!

Here is Benjamin Biggs Wedding quilt Block 11. 

Yep - that looks a lot like Christmas too ?! 

The end of year get-togethers have started - always nice to round-up and catch-up with family. Hope you are enjoying the Season !

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Three more "Red Bride" blocks

Civil War Bride quilt (using the Threadbear pattern) in reds - needle turn applique with back basting prep. I'm finding my light pad invaluable, especially with the fussy cutting. The fabric pattern usually shows up well even from the back when placing pieces for the back basting.

In case you think I whipped them up easily - not true I'm afraid. There were a few fabrics unpicked and changed to get the balance I was happy with, and I'm still not sure...but enough meddling now! 

It was a relief to leave them alone and get back to more 'secret gift' Auntie Green stitching - so calming in the neutrals.  I think a few close up snippets in a collage is not giving too much away? 
For this I am working with appliqued 1/4 inch bias tape stems and back basted prep needleturn for the rest.

Hand quilting practice is going pretty well on my Four Block applique quilt. I have experimented with various devices designed to help reduce pain in the hands - so much so that I felt like Edward Scissorhands at times (great movie but the hands could be awkward and dangerous to coordinate!). 
Persistence is the key with these gadgets and I'm desperate - desperate to find a comfortable method. 

In the left hand under the hoop I have the TJ quick quilter - no more sore finger tip and it seems to make my stitches more even in size (always a bonus) - love it.

I know gadgets are a very personal thing so this is just what works for me. I should tell you that I have  'knobby' arthritic fingers (no I am not going to show you - believe me - not pretty) so getting a thimble to fit and to stay on is a challenge. 

On the right hand I have an open adjustable thimble - love the tip for pushing the needle through. Also in the right hand is the yellow needle puller. It took a while to adjust to this but I now think it is brilliant. Previously I had tried different sizes of silicon and rubber thimbles (on thumb and forefinger) to help with needle pulling and they did the job well. But, because of my very knobbly finger joint, they either fell off or cut off the circulation (visualise finger tip turning blue by stages). 

We went on a family bush walk south of Sydney at the weekend - was lovely to spot spring flowering Australian flora such as this flannel flower (or Actinotus helianthi 'Starbright' if you must know) native to Sydney. The petals and leaves are as soft as felt - hence the name 'flannel' .

Flowers about 2 inches across

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Benjamin Biggs BOM - two rows down

That's ten 12 inch blocks done now, and time to lay them out for a 'play'. I won't stitch them together yet just in case I want to change something later . 

This is the latest one finished - Block 10 - rather an unusual one I think...not quite sure what these four elements depict but I stitched it anyway! They look a bit like candle sticks but maybe they are a simplified stem and flower. I checked in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Applique but there's nothing quite like it, though in outline it could resemble four fleur-de-lis. Any thoughts?

Civil War Bride -  for my second block I jumped across to Block 11 (the numbering in the Threadbear pattern) .

Four block applique quilt: Last post I mentioned that I want to improve my hand quilting technique. I used to hand quilt by stitching forwards (I was taught 20 odd years ago and that was it) - and then got a lot of hand/ wrist pain. I am now teaching myself the rocking motion and quilting towards myself - and feel so lucky to have loads of YouTube video tutorials and blogs to study. 
Anyway...I want to dive in with a smallish test quilting project. There is a pile of completed Baltimore Album blocks which have been abandoned  living in a cupboard here (you know how it is...not happy with the standard of my older work). But I thought I'd pick out four of the better ones and make a small wall quilt - instant hand quilting practice!
First trimming the blocks with my Karen Buckley adjustable square (love this tool) - and they really needed adjustment I can tell you.

Blocks sewn together: 

Then I needle-turn appliqued a saw tooth border to finish it off (lucky I still had plenty of the red fabric left) :

Basting the layers together ready to hand quilt - it measures about 1 metre ( 39 inches) square:

And I'm off...quilting around all the applique pieces: 

I'm pretty slow, the stitches are far from perfect, but am feeling more confident all the time, and loving it. One thing I wanted to avoid was holding up the layers with a hand hoop - used to give me such a wrist pain - but I don't want to invest in a floor stand or frame at this stage. So I bought a hands free 'sit-upon' rotating quilt hoop from Thimblelady - seemed a good start and reasonably economical. I'm finding it comfortable to use sitting on the lounge and the hands are pain free so far.

I've got a lot of applique going on as you can see above - and that doesn't include my secret sewing of Auntie Green. But there are more temptations out there. Have a look at Wendy's new free applique BOM - just lovely!

And what's going on here? ... In Sydney with my daughter and her fiance when she was admitted as a solicitor this month. 
some happy tomfoolery there...
We celebrated after the ceremony with a champagne silver service High Tea in the Queen Victoria Building - such a treat. 
beautiful ceiling

There's been a touch of Summer in the weather. Too early for me (what happened to Spring?) but some things in the garden are loving it.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Thrilled and relieved...

Just a quick post to show you why I'm thrilled and relieved in equal measure!

My version of the Ann Randoll coverlet (started in Rhonda Pearce's workshop) is now a complete quilt top. I have to admit I'd been putting off the final sew-together and attachment of that last border - dreading that there might be "issues". All those hours of applique could have distorted the measurements - but amazingly it went together just fine...can't quite believe it really...

I've hung it for photos using pants hangers - works well as a temporary measure for photos. 
It is about 210 cm square ( 83 inches square). 

Now to consider the quilting. I am working on my hand quilting technique to try to relieve hand /wrist pain - trying different methods and tools but am not confident I can tackle a whole quilt. So I'm thinking I may machine stitch the long seams ( the less noticeable parts) and add some hand quilting after. I do much prefer the look and feel of hand quilting but we do what we can ...

Saturday, 4 October 2014

and The Bride

I've started a new quilt - and I know I'm very late to join the bandwagon on this one - my version of the Civil War Bride. There are versions called 'Bird of Paradise' and 'Bountiful Life' - all inspired by the lovely applique masterpiece in the Museum of American Folk Art. I've had the Threadbear pattern  for a couple of years now...waiting for the right moment. 
Here's a picture of the original (left) in the book "Treasury of American Quilts" and Threadbear's 2009 pattern pictured next to it (right):
My thinking here is:
  • I've got masses of quite a good stash of red fabrics from my ongoing project making my Stars meet Hexagons EPP quilt (yep - still ongoing) ...

  • I've been tempted to make a red and white applique quilt since the internet was flooded with pictures of  Infinite Variety in 2011 - wow, how inspiring was that?! 
  • I've enjoyed the process of making my Auntie Green in neutrals (now 'secret sewing') - restricting colours can be strangely liberating - as long as there are lots of prints to choose. 

So it will be a CWB in red and white - with lots of different reds and lots of different prints! 

Working on Block 1 there was much fabric fun.
Became this...
And this...
Became this...

And there was this...

Finishing up with this...
Block 1
Starting another block ( Block 8 this time) ...

I am doing needleturn applique - all using back basting prep. I could have made bias tape for the stems, as suggested in the pattern, but so far it seems just as easy to back baste them first, as I am so used to this technique. 

Ann Randoll quilt - no, not abandoned... I am now ready to sew together the appliqued corner blocks that I drafted for the the hexagon border. They will be stitched to either end of the hexagon border strips, and then machine stitched to the quilt. I prefer to machine stitch the long seams together to give the quilt extra stability/strength.

Here's a collage of photos from my garden this week. They show my favourite garden colour - the limey greens of new growth in Spring. Time to go sit out there and enjoy it....

Have a lovely weekend - a long weekend for us here. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Creating corners

Time for a last bit of drafting for my version of the Ann Randoll coverlet - the corner blocks of the hexagon border. The best picture I have of the original is a page in a book (Quilts 1700-1945):

There's Ann's corner block ... a ring of hearts

And here is my drafted version (8 inch block)...
One block appliqued, three more to go. 

Benjamin Biggs - I've just finished Block 9. The next one is due any day so that was a close call getting finished this month. 

I had a lovely day of sewing with a friend yesterday and these are what we made:
They are "pop-out purses" , pattern bought from Studio Mio at the Sydney Quilt show. We had a bit of a learning curve sewing on the zippers but all worth it. There is a metal D frame that pops open when you unzip - so clever. 

There's been a lot of getting out in the garden in the glorious Spring weather.... and before the heat of Summer hits.

My 20 year old son came home for a week and after a quick venture into the garden paid me the enormous compliment of saying "you're keeping everything very alive out there!" He's no gardener so I'm lucky he noticed ... I guess ...hehe.

Here he is with my daughter and her fiance having fun in a photo booth. That "booth" was a great idea - at my niece's Sydney garden wedding - just a pretty screen for a backdrop and a picture frame hung in front, with a basket of props to select from. The best ideas are so often the simplest?!