I have a little story here about a quilt that eventually turned from an ugly duckling into a lovely swan:

This quilt started its life back in 2010 as a layer cake of fabric- Woodland Bloom by Moda. At the time when I bought it I obviously loved it- I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise? I bought it to be able to have a big variety of fabric from the one range to make a quilt from, something I hadn’t done before. I didn’t need to keep the fabric in the 10″ squares.
The layer cake rested in my cupboard for quite awhile until it made itself to the top of the list. The only trouble was that I couldn’t decide what to do with it. I looked in many magazines and books and on the net, because after all, these pre-cuts are all the fashion so there should be plenty to choose from, right? I could not settle on anything, and in the end cut the 10″ squares up to make blocks- I don’t know if they have a particular name-like this:

(Sorry for the photo taken with an old camera that put a fuzzy spot in in the middle of all its pictures.)
However these blocks only look good if there is some contrast between light and dark with the borders around the centre piece. As they were mainly middle values, I divided the layer cake into different colour groupings instead and hoped that would work.
I had some stripey fabric in my stash so I pulled it out and added it in to see if it could help.
The intention was to alternate the two different shaped blocks, but when they were next to each other it still wasn’t good. So I went to the local quilt shop and bought some bright green to use as sashing between the blocks and break them up a little. I then worked out a design sewing groupings of blocks together.
This was a little better, but I still wasn’t happy.

I looked at it every which way, upside down, this way and that and still hated it. Back in to the cupboard it went to rest for awhile.
Eventually, about a year later, I decided it was time to do something with this ugly little duckling, and while looking at it with my head to the side and eyes squinting, an idea popped in. I decided to cut it all up again into strips, and I then sewed strips of white of various lengths onto both ends of the coloured pieces. I joined them all together into what looked like a good arrangement. YES! Happy at last.

I added some wide borders onto each end and narrow stripes along the side, and because the strips looked like lines on a page decided to quilt it in a free-hand writing style.

Auditioning for borders

I’ve decided to give this to a relative of mine, so I used names of family members and place names where many of us live, and have lived. This was really fun quilting and very quick. The ends have a flowing feather scroll on them.

In honour of the new season upon us, and now that it has a fresh lively look about it, I’ve called it Springtime. Isn’t it good when you get a quilt finished?!
P.S. My lovely daughter sent me this quote: I think it is my life motto:
“Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.”
― Gustave Flaubert

Accounting for tastes

I made a yummy cake yesterday, just because I felt like it and hadn’t made one in awhile. As the last baking I did involved chocolate fudge brownies mainly for my son, I thought this time I would choose something more along my tastes, which often involve fruit-flavoured cakes like lemon, orange, apple etc. So I made an orange poppyseed cake with orange-flavoured icing.

It was so nice and I just loved it. However my 14 year-old son wasn’t overjoyed by it- in his world the only good cake is a chocolate cake! There was no way I could convince him that it was a good cake. It got me to thinking on the variety of tastes and preferences we all have, sometimes with no way of explaining why we like something.
An example is colour combinations. I love the combination of blues, browns and creams together.

I don’t know why, and while that has been a fairly common colour combo in the last year or two, I still think that I would like it even if it wasn’t seen around a lot in fabric and designs. Yeah, I’m sure I would.

This fabric below (Kaffe Fassett) is one I’ve been using in some applique blocks.

I’ve liked it so much I went and bought some more to make sure I don’t run out! Once again, putting into words what I like about it – don’t know. Spots are always handy though.
Another combination I like is green and purple – the real gem brights, like this Phillip Jacob print below.

Generally, any combinations of blues, greens and purples also make me happy. Have you thought about your favourite combinations?

5 things… I’ve been up to this week

Apart from the cleaning and cooking and watching my son play sport and playing with the puppy, here is a list of the top 5 things I’ve done in the past week.
1. On Tuesday I spent the day with a group of friends for a sewing get-together. About once a month we take turns visiting at each other’s place. All of us did hand-sewing in between chatting and laughing, as well as a beautiful morning tea provided by our host, K. A bonus is that we get to see each other’s latest projects, and K had so many lovely quilts to show us that she has made over the recent year or two. This photo below is my little wool applique hanging that I started in Sue Spargo’s workshop a few weeks ago. I crocheted the little flowers with cotton and a large hook to make the open loopy look.

2. On the long-arm quilter: I have been working on this quilt for a client. She chose an all-over pattern for this small quilt. Only in the early stages yet so I can’t show much!

3. I have been enrolled in an online class through the Quilt University (www.quiltuniversity.com ) called Inspired to Design. I have done quite a few classes this way, and it does open you up to new ideas and inspiration. This particular class is run over about 5- 6 weeks, and is offered by Elizabeth Barton, herself a great quilter. I particularly love the quilts she has made of cityscapes and buildings. You can see her work here: elizabethbarton.blogspot.com.au

This course I’m doing at the moment is all about designing our own art quilt; learning the basics, working on designs, learning to recognise what makes an art quilt, and so on. So far, we have been sketching and playing around with shapes, line and texture. This photo just shows one of my earlier sketches where I tried to play around with spirit people shapes. I don’t know where this will go yet.
This course has actually been hard work, because this is a new area for me. The brain cells are rustily turning!

4. I have been doing some more work on the grandbaby quilt a group of us are making for a friend’s first grandchild. I finished quilting it and started on the binding. While sitting and hand-sewing down the binding, I contemplated about the merits of hand-sewing the binding as in the traditional way,

or machine-sewing binding, which I have done on a few quilts. This photo below shows one I recently did- you sew the binding down first to the wrong side, turn it over to the front and then top-stitch it down, with the sewing showing on the back along the edge of the binding join.
front side
bottom side
I think a lot of quilters wouldn’t dream of using this method, but it is a lot faster and in the end does it really matter? I did think about whether to fully machine sew this binding but was reluctant to do so. I haven’t even worked out why I decide to do it one way or another on any quilt yet!
5. TCB- taking care of business. Why does it feel good when you get a few jobs out of the way or get caught up on appointments and check-ups etc? I have been to the tax accountant to get our tax returns done and got some advice on what I need to do for my own business. Sorting through papers and receipts for that takes up lots of time away from sewing. Our little dog Haley has been to the Vet to be spayed and has recovered well, so she and Chloe are nice and healthy and up to date with all that is needed for them.
Here is another one of my postcards to show you:

This one was created to the theme of ‘scraps’. I randomly sewed lots of fabric scraps on top of some pellon, just slivers and scraps of mainly smaller sizes. I then free-hand ‘drew’ with the sewing machine an outline of a city skyline in a black thread to resemble a penline. I named it “Scraps in the City” Ha!
So, once again I don’t know where the week went, but I was busy. It’s all good.

A new bag

I recently made a shoulder bag for my daughter.

She wanted a bag to use when going to classes at Uni and we had picked some fabric up in a sale earlier in the year. It just took a few months to work its way to the top of the list so it did get made in time for the start of second semester!

She wanted a bag that was big enough to fit books in but not too big that it would be heavy when full, easy enough to open wide enough to put said books in, had straps long enough to sling over the shoulders but not too long that it swamped her {she’s only short :)) }. We looked through lots of magazines and bag patterns that I already had at home and finally agreed on this pattern by Valori Wells.

The pattern included some fabric painting but we just used patterned fabric we had bought for the outside and the lining plus some other matching scrap pieces for the patches front and back. I also adjusted the size of the side gusset to make it a little ‘skinnier’.

We found it in the Winter 2010-2011 edition of IQF Quilt Scene magazine.

This is an annual magazine published for the International Quilt Festival in Houston each year. While I have never been to the festival, but would love to one day, this magazine includes beautiful photographs of quilts on display as well as lots of projects so I think it is quite worthwhile. It’s published by the same company responsible for Quilting Arts, my most favourite magazine of all!

Postcard play

At our recent textile art exhibition, we had a section devoted to our Postcard Challenge. Each member of the Art Quilt group took part in the Challenge where we created a textile postcard to a different theme each month. It was an excellent way of experimenting with various techniques in surface design, quilting and embellishment. By only having a small size to deal with, it meant that we could experiment without worrying over the effect on the final appearance of a large quilt; great for trying out lots of “What if…..” ideas. At the end of the Challenge, we all stuck the postcards onto a black art canvas for some cohesion within the exhibition. The photo above is of my postcard collection.
I thought I might occasionally show here on the blog each of the postcards that I created. You’ll probably note that with these art pieces I tend to like finishes that are not completely neat and tidy- my cards often have threads dangling off them, raw edges, I don’t colour within the lines, etc. I like to embrace the ‘wabi sabi’ aesthetic of beauty within imperfection. That’s not to say I don’t and can’t create with precision and exactness where required; I just like the handmade look on some of my own things.
I made this postcard in response to the theme of “Found”.

I started with some dark fabric and painted it with gold fabric paint. It was then quilted in a grid pattern. I hand-embellished with lots of objects I found- found on one of my walks, found while looking on the ground for discarded bits and pieces or even found in the cupboards or drawers of my sewing room. They were each sewn down with a variety of threads.
At a recent meeting of Gatton Quilters, we had some more of our fractured pictures on show. Not all of the participants had brought in their piece so we didn’t have any completed pictures but here are some of the installments. This also is another way for us to practise different methods so once again I have been trying to vary the techniques I use.
Below is Lyn’s piece, beautifully done and it looks better than the original picture slice which is on the left:

Three other pieces of a different picture (you can see the theme this month was buildings):

(L to R: Trish, me, Shirley)
This month I coloured in the building with Inktense watercolour pencils and then free-motion sewed with black thread around all the outlines to give the appearance of a hand-drawn line.
The original photo:

I have to end with a photo of our little dogs today: Hayley the cheeky puppy on the right recovering well from her little operation this week and (annoying) playing with Chloe .

Some long-arm quilting

I’ve been busy machine quilting for a client. The quilt has a lovely play on colour and was made with her son in mind. It therefore needed to be masculine in colour and design, and the quilting also had to reflect that. I quilted it free-hand in a geometrical pattern of straight and diagonal lines.

The continuous-line quilting was done without any marking and formed squared spiral and mechanical-looking shapes. The large central area of the quilt was quilted more densely in a smaller-scale design using a variegated thread in browns and golds, and with the borders I utilised the same basic design only on a larger more open scale with a variegated blue and green thread.

B used a jelly roll to make the quilt and it really has some lovely colours in it.

I think we were both happy with how it turned out!
(more photos on the “Quilts I’ve quilted” page.)

5 things….. on a Sunday afternoon

I generally like to people-watch; I look at people walking by and wonder what decisions they made to choose the clothes they are wearing that day, or wonder at the relationships between people in a group or just wonder what life has dealt to them that day. I expecially like it when I see someone reading a book, particularly children, as it reinforces the thought that books and reading are not dead! When I’m at the beach, sitting on the sand with a book in my hands I play a game to see who is reading and what book they have chosen to read. I also like it when I am out and about to see the variety of ways people choose to spend their Sunday afternoons. For some reason, it gladdens my heart to see people taking part in activities, which of course means they aren’t sitting inside in front of a screen.

I went for a drive yesterday to visit my sister, and came up with these five things that a person can do on their Sunday afternoon:
* a girl riding her horse around a paddock, weaving in and out, trotting, cantering, both of them with a smile on their face
* a bewhiskered grandpa sitting on a seat outside the local shop sharing an icecream with a baby in a stroller
* people out in their gardens, tending to their roses and mowing the lawn
* taking the time to do some sewing, or perhaps knitting, or perhaps snoozing on the verandah while enjoying some afternoon tea
* walking or running in the late afternoon sunshine; old, young, middle-aged, with or without dogs

I’m sure there’s probably a lot more you can think of; ain’t Sundays grand? (as long as you don’t have to work like my husband does!)

Lots done

I had a lovely day today. You know, when sometimes you get to the end of a day and things just seem to have gone okay for everyone. I started back in a fitness class after having a break for about a month, and I think it’s true what they say about the feel good factor after doing some exercise. The only problem being the early start- having to get up at 6am is a bit hard! especially after snuggling in a bit later on these cold winter mornings in recent weeks.
This week I have had a couple of sewing sessions with some friends on a quilt that we are making for the first grand-baby for J. She is very excited about the soon-to-be addition to the family. We had 6 contributors make a block each and the task this week was to sew them together into the quilt top. We each had a piece of fabric that had a sea –theme happening and could use it any way we wished. This is my block:

The two sewing sessions we had this week got the blocks all trimmed up, some with borders to make up to the same size, and sashing strips cut. The blocks were arranged and re-arranged until we were happy with the look and then sewn together with borders all around.
This is the quilt top at end-of-play today, being held up by the grandma-to-be:

Next week I will be quilting it and then adding the binding, so it will be finished for the grandparents to take when they visit the new baby next month.
I’ve also been quilting a quilt on the long-arm machine for a client and made progress on that as well, and had play-time with the puppy outside on this beautiful day. It’s all good.

Progress report

I had a sewing day yesterday where I did some more work on my New York Beauty blocks. As I mentioned back here, I have been working on NYB blocks of different sizes and designs, using a method taught by Jan Phillips. My latest finished block is this one (sorry it doesn’t appear to be pressed):

I love little pops of colour amongst black and white! This next photo is just the start on an arc for the next block:

It utilises the technique of pre-sewn seams. If you look at the right-hand side at the first little seam between the green and the black points- that is from a piece of fabric first prepared sewing a strip of black and a strip of green together. That newly created strip is then used by placing its seam along that line on the foundation paper, and essentially using it as a piece of fabric in its own right. Hard to describe in words, and tricky to get right without lots of fiddling- well, for me anyway!
Another technique that I have been practising is sewing curves. Everyone seems to have second-thoughts when faced with fitting curves together and we generally use lots of pins and crossing our fingers. Some people also have one of those special feet developed to make curve-sewing a breeze, but as I don’t have one I have been practising and working out an effective way for me. I’m not there yet. I had read somewhere that some people can sew a curve, i.e. a concave curve to a convex curve, without pins by just holding the two pieces together ensuring the edges always line up together as they go under the presser foot. So I had a few trys at that- this is a rectangular curve so it is an irregular-shaped curve but still the same principle:

It’s not perfect by any means as you can see in the photo where the two ends aren’t exactly meeting but I can see some progress each time I try it. I think it would be easier with a presser foot that doesn’t have a big ‘footprint’, so to speak, so you can manipulate the fabric. As I’m always telling my children practise makes perfect so I’ll just keep trying.

Home-designed design wall

I’m a happy little vegemite now that I have a design wall in my studio. I’ve been tossing ideas around for ages trying to work out how to put one up in my room- a room that doesn’t have any large expanse of spare wall.You know how handy it would be to have a design wall- where you can try out varying combinations of blocks for a quilt, look at different fabrics to see how they will ‘play’ with each other, and not to have to use the floor which I have been using until now. Besides the knees and the back getting a little tired of it, having everything arranged on the floor can just flat out be a nuisance and in everyone’s way!
The dilemma has always been where to put it, let alone how to make it. In these pictures of my studio you can see how I have things up on all the walls, whether it be built-in shelves, cupboards, benches or windows. The long-arm quilter necessitated having a lovely long room so the overall size is perfect.

You can see in this shot a quilt folded over the roller bar of the quilter. I have just taken it off the long-arm and am about to add the binding. I’ll show photos of that when it is finished.
This end is my reading corner- everyone’s favourite chair in the house for reading, in my case mainly quilting books and magazines. This is where I sit to have a coffee or sometimes lunch, and the chair is old and comfy.

So, back to the design wall. My husband put up a rail across the top of cupboard doors. I first tried just hanging some flannel from that but it wasn’t successful. The wall that runs perpendicular to the cupboards has a large sliding glass door with a roll-down blind. I did consider whether we could somehow utilise that, perhaps by adding flannel to the blind, but that didn’t work either as it wasn’t solid enough when pressing the pieces on. So John got two large pieces of board and cut holes out of the top to enable us to slip the board up inside the rail.

Of course, it means that I can’t get into the cupboard at the same time, but the boards are easy to slide down and out when not in use. There are two separate boards that fit flush next to each other when one isn’t wide enough.

We then got an old flannel sheet and stapled it all around the board just as a trial- but it works so well I’ll probably just leave it there. I just need to get another piece to cover the second board.

I tried it out with some blocks for the spiderweb quilt {which aren’t really spiderwebs- I’ll have to think of a new name} that I’ve been experimenting with, as mentionerd last week. They are coming along really well too!