A busy weekend for all

We’ve had a weekend full of sport-related activities so not a lot of sewing! On Saturday I took my son to a soccer match in Toowoomba. It was a very cold day with the wind never letting up. I’m sure it was also cold on the field, but for us supporters jackets and beanies and gloves were the order of the day. We also took our puppie, Hayley, with us for the trip but while we were at soccer she had a ‘puppy play date’ with my niece’s dog Molly. Molly is a 2 year-old labrador who loves to play and run but often doesn’t have another dog to play with, while our Haley is the same, so this was the perfect opportunity for them to get together.

Haley is the bigger of our two dogs- the older dog is a chihuahua, so it was good to see Hayley on the backfoot for a change- to be the smaller one and to fit in with the doggie heirarchy. Hayley is a very energetic pup and will take whatever chance she can to play with the kids.

It was so cute because that night both Hayley and Molly were so exhausted from running around the yard the whole afternoon chasing each other, that they both slept soundly the whole night! Just like children- tire them out for a good night’s sleep!

Beauty in the eye

I got a fantastic surprise recently when I heard I had won a competition. I can’t remember the last time I won anything! Sarah Fielke from The Last Piece had a giveaway of the book “The Shape Workshop for Quilters” and announced on her blog that I had won. Yay!
I just received the book this week in the mail. It’s a lovely book to read through with some great block ideas to try out.

To enter the competition we had to submit a comment about which was our favourite block to make. My favourite block has always been the New York Beauty block. I used it for the centre of this quilt some years ago:

This was a wonky NYB from a Valori Wells pattern. I tend to like wonky, asymmetrical, off-kilter, lop-sided raw-edge type things!

I have also more recently been making some NYB blocks using a pattern by Jan Phillips from Quilt Therapy. Jan’s quilt is called “What a Beauty” and I started this in a workshop with Jan. This is one of the blocks I’ve made so far:

I am making my blocks in black and white prints with dashes of colour here and there.

I have so far been making blocks from the pattern but am tempted to try and draw up some of my own. Jan has created a template that enables you to construct your own design of block, putting in arcs and spikes in lots of different combinations. It’s a little daunting but might also be fun.

Wool and stitching with Sue Spargo

I have just had a great weekend in a workshop with Sue Spargo, who does wonderful folk art wool quilts. She came to Toowoomba for the 2 day workshop, which was organised by Lisa at the Precious Time quilt shop. Sue is a great teacher, taking time to show us how she produces her pieces, her techniques and patiently showing us the stitches she uses to stitch down pieces of wool, fabric, ribbons and thread to create a picture. She also had lots of her own works there so we could have a good look at them. Below is one of her quilts,

but you can also go to her own website and have a look at her work. You can’t get enough just to take a quick look- every time your eyes catch them you notice something different- they are a real feast for your eyes!
In the workshop we were working on a small project which was a vase of flowers. This is Sue’s own version:

The main purpose of the workshop for me was to learn the techniques and the stitches and to get inspiration – I wasn’t necessarily wanting to get a finished wall-hanging out of it. Even though all of us were doing that same project every single one of us has produced a different piece through our choice of wools, the shapes and arrangements of the flowers, the colours we used, the threads and embellishments, and the stitches we used.
This is mine in the early stages:

Sue let us try different threads on our work to see the effects that could be achieved, and we were encouraged to look through our fabric scraps to add whatever we liked, e.g. velvet and silk pieces.
At the end of the workshop, this is what my piece now looks like:

Still lots to go, but I really enjoyed the workshop and am eager to keep stitching with wool- and to me that is a sign of time well spent!

Our Art Group picture

This month, one of the fractured pictures that our Art Group worked on was of a an old shed in a typical Australian setting. Once again, the picture was split up into 6 pieces and each person had to recreate their slice of the picture. Each person working on the piece can interpret it how they wish; any techniques can be used and any materials and tools utilised. The only guidelines are that each piece has to fit within the size limits of each slice and where an element of the picture would appear to continue into the next slice, that the line is correct and will match up, e.g. a tree branch or a roofline. Below is a photo of the picture we used:

And here are our interpretations (some pieces weren’t entirely finished when the photo was taken):

This was worked on by (l to r): Alison, Jan K, Shirley, me, Lyn and Margaret.

OUr intention is to join all the pieces up with a thin slice of black between each piece, to make a completed quilted art piece. At the end of the year we hope to have one completed piece for each person involved in the project. As there are 12 people contributing, we are doing two pictures each month to make sure no-one misses out! So far we have done outdoor scenes or landscapes, but we are trying a few different looks for the next few.
It’s been great fun to do but has also served the purpose to get us thinking about line and texture, about colour and value and made us experiment with different techniques that we might have previously only dabbled in.

A spare 10 minutes

I read somewhere that time spent in a studio is never wasted. To take this in a very general sense, it means that any time spent in a place where you love to work or create is worth it, no matter if you ‘don’t feel like doing anything’. I think it is referring to the idea that if you just walk into your sewing room or studio or study or garden shed, and even if all you do is pick up something you have been working on to take another look, or put away a couple of bits of fabric left lying on the bench, it still gets the brain ticking over. You can easily find yourself stopping and thinking about what next step you may take in creating that quilt or artwork; you may decide to go to your stash and see what you have there as a possible border fabric or any other possible ideas; just being around it gets the thoughts moving and the time is never wasted.

I remember being told something very similar years ago when I was doing some postgraduate study, while also working and raising young children. I was often so tired of the work involved but I knew I had to just sit down and finish a paper I was writing- but it was so hard to go into my study and start working! I was told that even on the worst nights when the last thing I wanted to do was study, all I had to do was ‘allow’ myself only 15 minutes for work and after that time I could leave it with good conscience. Surely I can do just 10 or 15 minutes?
Usually, I would go and put some order into an untidy desk and perhaps take a look my timetable to see what deadlines I had coming up. That might prompt me to write some reminders on a few things to do for the next day, or perhaps jot down a couple of books to get from the library or papers to research on the internet. Perhaps I would pick up a draft of a report I was writing and start to read through it – invariably I would start to edit it, and maybe think of another topic I needed to add in, or check the bibliography was complete. Before I knew it one thing would lead onto the next, and even though I would be aware that the 15 minutes was long past, it was okay, I might just keep going for the time being. And even though, I might not always get anything written, the time spent organising things was well worth it, because at least my conscience felt better, I felt I had achieved something!

So, yes, I think that any time spent in the studio, even if I feel I am lacking in motivation, is worth it. Whenever I walk into my sewing room I‘m happy at the thought of the possibilities of what could be done – if I don’t feel like actually doing them at that time it doesn’t matter. While obviously sewing is a far reach from study, there are still days when I am lacking in a little motivation to get started. After a bit of a think, I’ve come up with a list of 5 things I often do when I either only have a spare 10 minutes or all I feel like spending is 10 minutes in the sewing room:
1. One of my current projects is an applique quilt that has lots of pieces. It’s a good project to have to work on at night time or to take with me, so it’s handy to have the applique pieces prepared and ready to go. I can spend 10 minutes tracing out a few shapes from freezer paper and ironing them down onto fabric.

2. for that same project, I use lots of different fabrics so spending the time actually choosing a selection for the next block takes time. This is one that often goes over the 10-minutes, but any time spent is a good start.
3. When I’m doing a quilt top that is lots of piecing, then in 10 minutes I can string-piece quite a few blocks.
4. Getting ready for the next sewing session is often worth 10 minutes, such as cutting some blocks ready for sewing, doing all the pressing of seams from the last session or even looking over what stage I’m up to and planning what comes next.

5. Looking for a pattern I’ve seen in a magazine somewhere and now just have to find again. I did this recently, looking for a bag pattern to make for my daughter. One thing leads to another, and this can also go over the 10 minutes, but it’s all good!
What can you do in a spare 10 minutes?

As luck would have it…

On a recent shopping trip to Toowoomba, I visited a lovely tea shop called ‘The Tea Centre’. It is a shop filled with lots of tea-related goodies like teapots and cups and saucers- of course- but also anything related to that time-honoured habit of tea making like tea-bag holders, strainers and teaspoons galore. The best part was the huge selection of teas to choose from. I had gone in to replenish my supply of peppermint tea, which I love to have with breakfast each morning. But, I also decided to try another tea, and on the recommendation of the shop owner came away with some tea called Stockholm blend. This tea just smells so beautiful! that you can’t resist it.

It has a blend of black tea leaves, orange peel, safflowers, calendula blossoms, rose petals, vanilla and apricot. You can see all the little bits in the tea and it just looks so pretty too! So I decided I would try to do some tea-dyeing with it to see whether those little bits of colour would show on the cloth. (I know- a little naive, but you never know?) I just did it the same way as basic tea dyeing on quilters muslin, lazily thinking I might be lucky for that to work. This is my attempt, which as you can see basically just looks like a ‘normal’ tea-dyed piece. I can see I will have to experiment a little further!

Then as luck would have it, yesterday I bought the latest edition of the Textiles magazine, which actually has an article in there by Trace Willans on dyeing with natural ingredients. Just what I needed!

Spiderweb quilt

I mentioned last week about a new idea I had for a quilt. It is based on a spiderweb quilt that I saw online at Quiltville, only I am making it slightly differently.

The spiderweb quilt is made up of square blocks, each made from 4 triangles joined together. Each of those individual triangles has a kite-shaped piece in the centre and the two outer ‘wings’ are made from scrappy strips.

Instead of starting with strips and adding them to a foundation to build up the triangles in the blocks, I am using some strip-pieced blocks I had already made. I had already cut the blocks at 8.5″ square so my idea is to cut the triangles out of these blocks and then add them to the a kite-shaped piece for the centre.

By doing this I would certainly have some wastage from the strip-pieced blocks- the most I can cut from each block is 3 triangles. However, I will keep the bits that are left over after cutting out the triangles as they could come in handy for another project down the track.
Today I spent some time auditioning fabric to use for the centre kites. I started with a red spot.

I also tried a solid colour- or nearly solid: this was a mottled orange, but I mainly wanted to see how a non-print fabric would look with it. The colour could have been a red or whatever.

I also tried a black and white print, and this really appealed to me.

I thought maybe something like this but with not quite so much white would be ideal, so went looking for a black and white pin spot. This is my favourite.

I’m happy with this, so even though I did actually like all of the fabrics I trialled, I think the b&w spot is the winner!

You know it’s winter when…

We usually have pretty mild winters here in South East Queensland, on average you would say we have about 3 months of colder weather and 9 months of hot weather. Winter this year has been a lot colder than most, and while I used to be a person who hated the cold, I’ve found in recent years I don’t mind it nearly so much. Winter brings with it some beautiful bonuses, such as being able to put on snuggly jumpers, cuddle up with a warm quilt and retreat to your home and close the doors and windows to create your own little family haven.
While we are well into winter at this stage, I was thinking to myself that there are a few things that really bring it home to us that yes, we know it’s winter, such as:
1. The roses are pruned
I’ve shown pictures of my beautiful roses before; today you wouldn’t recognise them because they’ve had their yearly prune.

Some have already got new growth on them, as if to say ‘You can’t keep us down!

2. There is a pile of winter clothes that need their hems taken up

Everything I buy for myself or my daughter usually has to have the hems taken up. We’re only about 5’2″ or thereabouts, so nothing is the right length for us, not even the ‘Short’ length jeans in Target. I think it’s funny how {taller} friends have looked at us with looks of incomprehension- they’ve never had to adjust the length on anything! But as I hate taking up hems or any sort of mending, the jobs pile up a little until I make a point of putting time aside to do them- I think the day has come. After all, before we know it winter will be finished and then they will have to wait in the wardrobe until next year!

3. The Ugg boots come out of hiding My feet are the first part of me to feel the cold, so once we are home at night the shoes get changed for the soft warmness of the Ugg boots! Yay!

4. You would rather stay in bed in the morning than get up and put your feet on that cold bathroom floor. Plus the teenagers of the house don’t make themselves known until mid-morning at least. But wait… that could also be autumn, maybe spring- scratch that, they sleep in all year long.

5. And best of all, you know its winter when the Sunday night meal is home-made soup and scones! Last week my husband made his special bacon bones, ham hock and vegetable soup- it was so yummy and best of all, there was enough left over for me to have it for lunch all during the week. I love winter for that alone :)

How to… use fusible web

I am in a group of friends who are collaborating on a baby quilt for one of us who is soon to be a first-time grandmother {maybe she would prefer ‘granny’?!}. We are each working on a block, even those who have never done any quilting or even a lot of sewing. To help those who are wanting to create a simple applique block, I have written these quick instructions for you on how to use paper-backed fusible webbing. This is sold under various trade names, such as Vliesofix, Wonder Under, Bondaweb etc and I’m not promoting any of these in particular. I will refer to them collectively as ‘web’ in this tutorial.

You will need:
* the base fabric which will form the background for the picture – mine is a cream with a small red print
* the fusible paper-backed web
* the feature fabric from which you will cut the shapes.

1. The low-down on fusible web The fusible web has two sides and you need to be familiar with each side. One side feels like paper; the other has a rough texture- this is the glue, or web, side. Never let your iron come into direct contact with this side!!!

The paper side is dull- on the left-hand folded over corner in the photo above; the glue side has a slight sheen if you hold it up to the light.
On the paper side of the web, use a pencil to draw the shape you want. You can also trace from a picture or access copyright-free drawings. If you are aiming for a picture, you will need to break it up into the individual shapes that make up the picture. For example, I am going for a row of beach huts on my block, so I will want some rectangles for the buildings and triangles for the roofs. {You are working with a reverse-image here at this stage- remember if you want something that is asymmetrical, draw it in reverse so that when it is fused onto the feature fabric and then turned over to fuse onto the background fabric it is the right way up. This might make more sense when you get down to Point 4 below}. Luckily here I just have shapes that appear the same back-to-front!
Trace the two shapes as separate objects on the paper side of the web. My photo shows the rectangles I’m using for the huts.

Cut out the shapes from the web- just outside the lines.

2. Take your feature fabric and work out where you want the shape to be cut from. I want the beach huts to be from striped fabric and have decided to use some fabric which has some sections of the design in stripes. You can see from the photo below I want to be able to get the rectangle from the corner with the stripes, avoiding the cat at the bottom of the square. I turn the feature fabric over so it is face down on the table. The wrong side of the feature fabric is now facing up.

I place the web shape with the glue side down onto this wrong side of the fabric in the spot that I’ve chosen. Feel the web paper- you should be able to feel the paper-side on top – remember, you don’t want to let the glue-side come into contact with your iron or you will have a sticky iron that the rest of the family will not appreciate! You can always use a pressing cloth or a piece of baking paper on top of it all before using the iron as a precautionary measure.
Press with a dry hot iron. You don’t have to keep the iron on it for more than a few seconds; just enough to melt the glue and the paper shape will be stuck to the wrong side of the feature fabric.

3. Cut out the shape. Allow to cool for a few seconds and then cut around the shape from the feature fabric: this time, cut directly out on the lines.

Peel off the paper from the shape.

4. Put your picture together The cut-out fabric shape will have a fine layer of glue on its wrong side. Place this piece, with the glue-side down, onto your background fabric in the position where you want it to be. The background fabric should be lying on the table with the right side facing up.
The shape can be moved around until you get it where you want it. When you are happy with it, press the shape onto the background fabric with the hot iron.

You can go onto adding whatever other shapes and pieces you need to make up your picture. The photo shows one of my beach huts. I’ll be adding more to complete the total picture. All that remains then is to stitch around the edges of each piece in your preferred method, e.g. blanket stitch or buttonhole stitch or machined running stitch or whatever!