my hardest quilt to make. ever.

Sometimes, working out the best way to quilt a quilt-top is a long process, fraught with indecision, double-guessing and accompanied by lots of sighs. Such was the case when I put this quilt of my own onto the longarm machine last week. This is the medallion quilt that I have mentioned quite a few times over the last year or so, here and here.
I started it in a workshop with Gwen Marston a couple of years ago, and the inspiration is a medallion quilt from her book Liberated Medallion Quilts. I didn’t use any pattern or instructions. It is made from lots of blocks, all made to different sizes and employing a variety of methods. Improv quilting indeed!
Once a large supply of blocks are in hand comes the difficult stage of working out how they can all fit together.
Many a time I was heard to say this is the hardest quilt I’ve ever made! Blocks were put together with strips added in here and there to make up gaps, extra little half-square triangles quickly put together to fill in a space and lots of re-arranging up on the design wall. I used Gwen’s method of ‘liberated quilting’, and made wonky star blocks, lop-sided log cabin blocks and unusual colours together in the hope it would all look okay in the end.
But once the top was all together, silly me thought it was all plain sailing from here. But how do you machine quilt such a top, with irregular seam lines and so many shapes and sizes?
I started with the decision that I didn’t want to do an all-over design or use my favoured method of free-hand quilting because it was so busy anyway and that style of quilting wouldn’t suit it.
I would use the same cream thread all over because otherwise changing threads would be a nightmare, but try to limit its visibility on darker coloured pieces.
So… I’m going to use straight-line quilting wherever possible, although there won’t be a regular 1/4″ around the blocks and some have strips which aren’t a constant width.
It’s in progress at the moment, so excuse the thread-ends in these photos:
Some blocks would be just out-line quilted, on some the quilting would be visible but not so on others, I’ll use in-the-ditch to move from one section to another, and as for the wonky blocks with irregular strip widths and star-points- sigh…..
For the centre square, trying to avoid curvy lines for consistency restricts the options somewhat, so more thinking required here-
This quilt is turning into the hardest one I’ve ever had to quilt.

everything’s green

If you were given a challenge to make a small quilt, no bigger than 14″ square, to the theme of “Green”, what would you do? The art quilt group of Gatton Quilters recently held such a challenge, and some really inventive works were created.
I decided to make a piece from strips of as many green coloured fabrics that I could find in my stash, with the aim to still see a pattern within the arrangement. This is the result:

Karen - Green challenge

Karen – Green challenge

I started by cutting lots of strips of no particular width and then arranged them on a backing. I originally thought of a more random arrangement between the varying hues but after a little experimentation settled with placing bright light greens in a strip across the middle and mainly darks and mid hues working out from that.
Once all the pieces had been auditioned and final placement decided, I put a little drop of glue to hold them in place on a foundation piece.
I then added some wadding and backing before taking it to the machine and quilting parallel lines about 1/4″ apart. I put a facing around the edges instead of binding. I think it even looks a little like a city skyline, which makes me happy as I do have a fondness for cityscapes :)

Here are some other Green challenge quilts by members of the group. Some are little quiltlets like mine and some are blocks that might have others added to them further down the track:

Jan M

Jan M

Lyn L

Lyn L

Meryl-green Meryl


Trisha k- green Trish
Trish K also brought this cushion in that she had recently finished with some lovely embroidery:

… and another thing, just thought I’d show this Clamshell Quilt, first talked about here, which I’ve now finished hand quilting:

Karen- Clamshell quilt

Karen- Clamshell quilt

Linking up here to the Stitched in Color blog which hosted the Clambake quiltalong.

…and last but not least, here is this week’s Dear Jane block- B4 titled ‘Chris’s Soccer Field':

getting the Gammill ready to quilt

I spent some of this past weekend quilting a client’s quilt on my long-arm machine, and had the idea that you might like to see a little more of the machine. I have a Gammill Classic Plus long-arm quilting machine, and while it does look fairly big and intimidating when you first look at it, I’ve come around to thinking it is just like a big sewing machine after all.

Before I start every new quilt on it, there are some little jobs to do first. I always give it a good wipe-down to clear any dust – and not just because I’m not a great housekeeper!- but because the smooth movement of the machine requires dust-free tracks.
I use an old pastry brush to dust along the tracks on the machine bed, as well as it’s own wheels. It’s best to get rid of any fluff or threads that might prevent the machine from moving in any direction that you’ll need while quilting.
It then has to be oiled, so I use the provided oil to put a drop in all the recommended spots, including the bobbin race.
I also change the needle after every big quilt or maybe two little quilts, because that needle does a lot of work.
I have to check whether I have any loaded bobbins with the correct thread, and if not put an empty bobbin on the winder and thread it up.
The needle thread also has to be threaded on the other side- I used to take a long time to thread the machine, checking the instructions at each step, but it’s like second nature now.
If I haven’t yet done so, I now load the quilt on the machine, which is done in order of the top first, then the backing and the batting. This can also take awhile to make sure they are loaded straight and firm.
Once that it is done, I usually do a little test run on some scrap that I pin to the side. This lets me check that the tension is correct and the stitches are being made correctly in the quilt- all threads work uniquely. Plus this is when I might test out a design- I do a lot of free-motion work so its good to test out a design I might have just practised with pen and paper. I try to avoid marking a quilt where possible.
This is a little sneak peek of the quilt I loaded on the weekend- it will have an all-over freehand design. Hope you are having fun with whatever stage of a quilt you are at!
and not to forget my Dear Jane block: this is one of the very first I made, using the reverse-applique method. This is B1 “Bachelor Buttons”.

the little jobs- sewing a quilt sleeve

Catching up on those last little finishing jobs that come with quilts- that sometimes get put off for awhile, or even left by the wayside!
I’ve been finishing some binding, adding some sleeves on to the back of quilts, as well as the labels for the back.
This is the way I add a sleeve- it may not be the correct way? or may not be the way that you do it? Let me know if you think I can improve on what I’m doing!
I first cut the strip for the sleeve- about 3″ less than the width of the quilt, and about 4″ deep. Then I machine-sew a little turned edge all around, and press the strip with a tuck of about 1 – 1.5″ all along the length.
sleeve1 This tuck gives it some room for when you put the rod or dowell in the back to hang it. I then hand-sew it down along the two long edges. The turned edge enables me to do a slip stitch so the stitches aren’t as obvious, and make it quicker than just turning th eedge over as you go.
And for the labels- I recently came across a panel of labels that you can cut off individual labels and use, like these: (this one’s not sewn down yet)
I thought they were a great idea, because sometimes I can’t find anything suitable to use for the label.
This one I incorporated into the faced-back when sewing the seams, and then hand-quilted over the top- which is still to be finished!
And here is this week’s Dear Jane block:

I4 - Stability

I4 – Stability

Have a great week!

friendly sewing

The photos below are of recently finished projects of the members of my quilting group, Gatton Quilters. We recently had our meeting, the first of the year, so everyone had lots of Show and Tell! We are currently working on a number of Challenges, which will all contribute towards our Exhibition we will be holding in July.
On the left is Helen’s response to the Recycled theme: Starry Nights utilising sari pieces. The work on the right is Lyn’s response to the theme of Recycled: she has depicted the journey from green leaves to compost.

L: Helen   R: Lyn- Nature's Recycling Plant

L: Helen R: Lyn- Nature’s Recycling Plant

The other theme we are working toward is Seasons. Helen’s work on the right is Annabelle’s Seasons Restaurant. Shirley’s work shows all four seasons together in the one piece.
L: Shirley   R: Helen-

L: Shirley R: Helen-

We also had both Trisha and Val showing their lovely, all hand appliqued tops called “Love Entwined”.




In a workshop last year we all learnt about sashiko stitching, and Marilyn has really taken off with it, completing some extra lovely projects.
I was also recently sewing with a group of friends on a leisurely Sunday afternoon. We had machine sewing and hand sewing going on, and look at this most cutest teapot for our afternoon tea!
afternoon sewing
That’s the great thing about quilting and sewing- it’s nice to get together and catch up while also making some headway in a current project. It’s all good!
Oh, and here is this week’s Dear Jane block: A12 Framed Fancy.
A12  Framed Fancy

A12 Framed Fancy