long arm machine quilting

This little fellow likes to think he runs the place, and he probably does, but with such a cute face how could you resist it?!
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He likes to keep an eye on me while I am working on the long-arm machone: quilting lovely quilts like this beauty I recently finished for Lyn:
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This is such a stunning quilt that Lyn has made, showcasing her sashiko stitching.
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Using the thread colours of golds, orange and reds has also made it a very different colour palette from what you normally might see with sashiko. For quilting it, I used a charcoal thread so it wouldn’t be too obtrusive on the coloured blocks and kept the quilting to a minimum on the sashiko blocks.
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The quilting on the main body of the quilt was free-hand in a design to match some of the fabric with a few dragon flies here and there, while I did a fan design on the borders.
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I can’t wait to see it when Lyn has trimmed and added the binding!

eco dyeing

We had a great workshop on eco-dyeing here in Gatton on the weekend, with Nat Billing. Nat is an eco-dyer, using leaves and fruit and vegetables and, well anything really, to make beautifull naturally-dyed and printed fabric. You can find out a little bit about her here and she is also on Facebook.
We were able to dye a number of pieces using a variety of methods, all utilising naturally-found ‘dyes’. We used leaves – each tree leaf with its own properties and resultant effects, onion skins, grapes, purple carrots and seeds.
The fabrics we used were a wool knit, raw silk, silk satin and paper. The leaves were placed on the fabric and then rolled around pieces of pipe, sticks, rusted metal, seed pods etc
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and placed in a brew – this first one used iron as the mordant, set at a high simmer.
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My first two pieces: wool with leaves wrapped around a rusted pipe which gave the dimpled look through the middle but you can also clearly notice the outlines of the leaves:
rusted pipe iron water
wool on rusted pipe
This is raw silk with a softer look, but still showing the leaves with muted greens:
raw silk iron
This silk satin had leaves, and red onions for the pink and grapes to give the purple colour:
silksatin-red-onion-grapes-leaves
Meryl showing one of her pieces:
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I also tried using some watercolour paper- folded and layered with leaves and onion skins and carrot then clamped between tiles like this:
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When I first opened it, with the leaves still on it – such beautiful rich colours:
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The paper once it had dried:
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Opening up each piece to see what had happened was just like Christmas morning- a surprise when you saw what was there!
We had a great time, and I think there are a few converts amongst us who will be trying it again in future. Thanks Nat for a fantastic day. :)

bit by bit

I’ve been making a little progress on this improvised quilt. I’ve written about it here and here before, and it may seem to onlookers that I’m not making much headway! Making up this quilt as I go along is harder than it seems, really hard. I think it is probably the most difficult quilt top I’ve made!
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I have it up on my design wall with all the extra blocks I’ve made so far arranged around it.

The last week or two have been spent looking, re-arranging, looking, sewing bits together, changing my mind and so on. I’ve started worrying that it’s all too busy and will just look chaotic, instead of looking like its meant to be: colourful and scrappy but still just right.
I know that once I have worked out a rough arrangement of the little blocks that are going around the medallion centre, I then will be adding filler strips to make them fit together. Those filler strips will be in the light green that I used in those wide strips top and bottom of the centre, as well as red and some of the stripe. So I’m hoping they will help to pull it together and also give some places for the eye to rest.
Herre are a couple of sections I’ve put together:
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It’s been fun making all the extra blocks. Some unexpected pairings of fabrics have revealed some new favourites, like this block:
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These are some of my ‘extras’ – little parts to fill in spots where needed.
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and lastly, I can’t complain because I have had some help from Dublin the supervisor
dublin

little birdies

You might think I have a thing for birdies…. and you may be right. I like them ’cause they are cute! I recently made this little birdie as a gift:

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He was quick to make- I got the Joel Dewberry pattern from here and used some fabrics in a favourite combination of blues and browns.
He can be used as a pincushion or could even be filled with pot pourri if you wish.
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He has a cute little face!
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A new little birdie to our home is this little ceramic birdie given to me by a friend:
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I think he might fulfil a greeting role at our front door:
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He looks quite nice with the azalea, don’t you think?!
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And just to show a few other birdies around the house which have been kindly given to me:
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and of course, this blog’s mascot, which I also made:
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Have a good week!

Show and tell….

My local quilt group, Gatton Quilters, had our monthly get-together this past weekend, and there was lots of show-and-tell on offer!
Even though attendance was down, a lot of members were able to show their completed works- some finished at a recent weekend retreat.
Lyn showed how to put to good use her half-square triangle blocks we did as a group swap last year:
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She also showed a lovely table runner made from a kit purchased on a trip to Canada- both sides look good!
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Quite an unusual range of fabrics and some new techniques involved.

Val had this quilt top to show:
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and Marilyn also had a few items, these first two with great hand-stitching:
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Marilyn also completed this magnificent piece in a workshop with Jan Knight and recently had it framed: it was hard to get a good photo without a lot of reflection, so I have cropped some of the border off to try and minimise that:
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One good thing from these meetings is that you go home with lots of motivation for getting stuck into some sewing. No excuses….

Lollypop Trees Quilt- finished

Finishing a quilt after working on it for some time, even years, brings with it some happiness at the completion but also a little sense of loss when it goes off to its new home. I finally finished the Lollypop Trees quilt for my daughter that I have been working on for nearly four years. I was glad that I had a timeframe to work towards- in this case it was for her 21st birthday- but even though I overshot that by a year (!) if I didn’t have a specific reason for getting it finished, it may still be in the UFO pile.
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I started this quilt because I wanted to do some applique- my favourite types of quilts tend to be pieced quilts, but also because I saw this quilt online somewhere and fell in love with it. I loved all the colours and mix of patterns and textures, and it used Kaffe Fasset fabrics which I also love to use.
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So, here it is finished. I quilted it on my longarm in a simple pattern because I wanted the applique blocks to be the focus.
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I used a gold-coloured thread on most of the background and some monofilament thread on the applique trees. This was a difficult quilt for which to work out what would look best. I ideally would have liked to avoid quilting on the applique altogether but because that would have meant a large proportion of the quilt surface without any quilting on it, that wasn’t possible. So I used the monofilament thread to quilt an outline shape inside the larger leaves and circles, and just quilted around other pieces so the applique would pop.
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The backing fabric was also a Kaffe fabric.
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This quilt measures 94″ by 94″. It was so big that even hanging it on the clothesline, wound up to the highest it would go, didn’t lift it off the ground!
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My daughter took it home with her on the weekend. It was a long haul to get it finished, and I’m a little sad to see it go, but also very happy that I got to the end!
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getting caught up..

Just a catch-up time, the last week or so here at Little Birdie. I don’t have any new projects to show, but just a few photos to show what has been occupying my time!
On my spider-web quilt which I finished a couple of months ago, I realised that I hadn’t added a hanging sleeve, so thought I better get on that:
sleeve
And also a label – I always spend too much time thinking of what to put on it!
label
Of course, then there is the lollypop quilt, which is in its final throes. The quilting is finished, so I have then tackled the trimming
trimming-lollipop
and making the binding for it. I decided to join together lots of lengths cut from the same bright fabrics used in the blocks. All joined together to make a length to fit around this huge 94″ square quilt.
binding-lollipop
The binding just has to be sewn on, and then I’ll have to put some thought into its label too!
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And another thing I’be been working on is some drawing and watercolour painting – here is a sketch of our last roses from the garden before the bushes were pruned last week.
rose-sketch
I find sketching is good practise for really looking at things- at their proportions, their colour values in different light- and mixing paints to get the right hue also makes you really think about colour!
So, what have you been working on?!

making a wonky quilt block out of a straight one

I started making some blocks back in January, as part of the Aurifil Block-along, as posted about here.
I intended making these blocks with a view to add them to my scrappy medallion quilt that I’ve been slowly working along in the background between other things. This quilt:
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This was the first one, a traditional bowtie block:
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Like all the blocks I’m making for this quilt, I put them up on my wall once finished so I can look at them all together. I won’t be arranging them until I have lots made so their final resting place is unkwown for the time being.
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But these blocks have been sitting there all this time and each time I look at them I think, they are not right, there’s something I don’t like. I think they are too big and ‘straight’ and ordinary, when most of the other blocks are wonky or improvised, or just different in some way. So, I had to do something with them. Maybe breaking them up, so all four aren’t together in one big block?
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No, still too ‘clean-cut’. There’s nothing for it- I have to chop them up.:) So, I cut them across the middle, and inserted a strip. Still not enough; cut them across the other way and inserted another. Here’s the first:
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I’m still not completely enamoured of them, but they are better than they were previously. Maybe they can sit up on the wall a bit longer while I ponder….
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I’m linking up here to Lily’s quilts and her Small Blog Meet- hope you’ll have a look at some other blogs :)

longarm quilting

Colleen asked me to quilt this small quilt for her recently.
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It might have been for one of her grandchildren, and made in blues and purples and greens and a feature fabric in the squares…
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I quilted it in an all-over design, like a large stipple that meanders over all the blocks..
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with an odd dragonfly here and there…
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It will probably get a lot of use in this chilly cold winter we’re experiencing in Queensland – a little unusual for us and taking a bit to get used to!
Hope you are all snuggling up in those quilts to keep warm. Have a good week.

improvising with made-up fabric

Experimenting more with blocks for my medallion quilt, I’ve been sewing scraps together to make a base fabric that I can then use to make blocks out of. Using a variety of odd-shaped scraps that have resulted from the blocks already made for this quilt, I just sew them together:
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Once I have a piece big enough I can then pick which block to make from it and cut the necessary components. Here is a couple of blocks where I used the saw-tooth design:
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It adds that scrappy look, which I often prefer to the ‘clean-cut’ look! Then, there is also the wonky log-cabin block which has endless varieties:

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In this block I added a flying geese block to the top of some randomly pieced strips:
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And some more little strip squares:
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I’m utilising quite a large selection of fabrics for this quilt, but stearing clear of the brights that I normally favour (except for a little bit of bright lime or fuschia here or there!). I’m taking to heart something I read, where by as long as you have a fabric appearing more than once in your quilt, it will look as if it belongs. Once I get it all together, if I don’t like some blocks, then I can just keep them out for another project along the way!
It’s all good.