Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunday Stash #20

No blogs this week as I've had just one major task - finishing off the king-sized double pinwheel. There's only so much even I can say about that. It's not been "Driving Miss Daisy" so much as "Binding Big Momma". Hang on, that sounds like a dodgy self-published book on Amazon. Snigger. 

I have had a couple of fabric deliveries to add to my stash so I'll tell you about those instead.

My first Frivol box has appeared from Fat Quarter Shop.

FYI international (ie non US) customers - it got stuck in customs for a while so you know what they means. Disappointing and I'm probably going to have to rethink what I buy from Fat Quarter Shop if that keeps continuing to happen.

For those of you who are on the shelf about Friviols (they're not cheap, particularly with a customs charge on top!) and are wondering what you get for your £ or $AUS or €, here's what the tin contains.

I've left out the secret surprises so as not to spoil anyone's fun. The tin is fairly sturdy and I can see myself using it again in the future, perhaps to store charm packs or mini charm packs. For now I'll stash it away for a rainy day. 

Next up I had a splurge at Southern Fabric and amongst other things, got some of their bespoke scrap bags. OMG where have these been all my life?! For less than $20 you can get lots of full width cuts ranging from 2.5" wide upwards. Most of the strips in my scrap bags were way wider than 2.5" with a lot of them being at least 4" or wider. 

First up, the Saffron/Bark selection from Joel Dewberry's Aviary 2 collection for Free Spirit Fabrics. 

There are some huge chunks of fabric, way bigger than a fat quarter in here. 

There's also purple and graphite colour ways but I like the colours in this one. Plus, hello orange! I'm definitely thinking a square within a square/ economy block design for this one. 

I also bought the a scrap bag of the Burlap colour way of Joel's Birch Farm collection.

Loving the 20s Art Deco feel to this collection. I'm thinking quartrefoil or something similar design wise.

Finally a scrap bag of Miss Kate from Bonnie and Camille for Moda.

 Whilst there's still some big hunks of fabric here (nothing smaller than 2.5") it shows which collections are more popular than others and therefore which ones the shop is likely to only have skinny strips of left. There's still loads here though and all very useable. I feel the need for some contrasting Moda solids in green, red and pink and then I'll see what inspires me!

Happy Sunday sewing (and if you're in the UK rainy Bank Holiday sewing!). I'm off to write that book...Er, I mean bind that quilt.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sunday Stash #19

Not a huge amount to show you this week - not because I haven't ordered a lot but it all seems to stuck somewhere mid-Atlantic!

What has turned up is a fat quarter bundle of Handcrafted 2 by Alison Glass for Andover.

I love pretty much everything Alison Glass does so when this bundle appeared on Massdrop I just had to have it. And the bundle of Ex Libris that appeared shortly thereafter too. But that's a story for another show-and-tell!

Not all of these colours are in my comfort zone (neon yellow anyone?) but I'm sure they'll all play nicely together. Particularly with all these other fat quarters I have from Alison. Here's my drawer. 

Some people love 30s reproductions, some people love Libertys of London. I confess here and now that I loathe Liberty and will send any and all Liberty that I might accidentally end up with to a certain American living down under (no that wasn't a euphemism) ;)

Alison Glass is my addiction. And maybe Kate Spain. And Jennifer Sampou.

Just in case you thought my collection was reasonable, there's the depth of that drawer.

Oops. Gonna need a bigger drawer soon.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Staying on the rails: straight line quilting Big Momma

Straight-line quilting is a bit of a novelty for me; usually I free motion quilt with swirling, loopy designs. But the though of doing such dense, time-consuming work on a king-sized quilt like a Big Momma filled me with dread. Plus I was concerned that the end product would be too stiff. This is meant to be a bed quilt after all, it shouldn't lay stiff and flat on the bed! Big Momma is suppose to drape gracefully not sit pert like the cherry on top of a cake! So out came the walking foot.

I decided to quilt the diagonal lines rather than the horizontal ones in order to give the quilt so movement and dynamism. Also, it ended up creating little pinwheel blocks where the lines intersect, which is extra cool!

 The downside of quilting on a diagonal is that the length of each quilting line is often longer than the length of the quilt itself. If I'd remembered my basic trigonometry I would have remembered that the hypothenuse is always the longest sized of the triangle. I can't believe I just used the work "hypothenuse" in relation to a quilt. Or anything for that matter.

I'm using the end of the diagonals as a guide, running the edge of my walking foot along it. Happily the walking foot is 5/8" on both sides so I can be fairly flexible about which direction I sew. Which is particularly helpful when I'm trying to squeeze the entire quilt through the throat of my machine!

I've also unexpectedly had to mark the diagonal lines in the border where these isn't a seam to follow. At 6" its just too long a seam to guess. I thought I'd be able to wing it but think that the end result of my "guesstimating" a straight line would be less than impressive. Happily it's fairly easy to grab a ruler and a Frixon pen and zip those lines out.

I'm also going out of my comfort zone by using Aurifil cotton thread to quilt with. Usually I use Isacord but, as these are straight lines and I'm not building up thread anywhere by going over lines, I think the Aurifil can take it. Fingers crossed but no tension issues yet.

I'm hoping that by the end of the weekend I might be ready for binding. Squee!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Life in the slow lane: English paper piecing

Although most of my quilts are pieced and quilted on Naomi the Janome, I have hand pieced and quilted before. The hand quilting was a short lived endeavor - I just don't have the patience - but I enjoy the accuracy of hand sewing. In fact my first (and still unfinished!) quilt was an EPP Le Moyne Star made out of satin, polyester and all sorts of inappropriate fabrics. Which is probably why it's still languishing in a box somewhere.

In order to avoid staring at the computer screen at work during lunch hour I've started an EPP project using 2" shapes - hexagons, squares and triangles. I think the pattern is called "Carousel" but I could be wrong. Out of interest, if I'm in England is this just "Paper Piecing"?

The aim is to make a bed quilt which, give me 10 years or so, I might eventually manage. People keep freaking out about the time it will take but I quite like that. Slow and steady wins the race tortoise.

Whilst I'm working from home I've brought it back with me. Here's the strip so far.

Plus one almost complete circle to add.

Next step is to sew in a row of alternating hexagon-square beneath it and then start another full row beneath that. 

The hexagons are (steel?) Crosshatch Sketch by Timeless Treasures and the squares and triangles are Treelicious by Maud Asbury for Blend Fabrics.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Basting a king sized quilt

I've lost count of the number of articles and blogs I've read and videos I've watched that try to teach you how to baste a quilt. And whilst they're all very helpful and informative, they tend to demonstrate on a baby quilt or table topper. Whilst I absolutely understand why they use a small project to demonstrate, when it comes to basting a bed quilt, there's a limit to how much you can transfer!

So, when preparing to baste Big Momma my king sized double pinwheel quilt, I thought it would be worthwhile taking some pics as we went. That way I could at least show you how I tackled it and any hints I've picked up along the way. After all, they don't get much bigger then Big Momma!

So, here goes.

1. Prepare. I was basting on the floor of my conservatory so my first job was to vacuum and then mop the floor clean. No dust bunnies on this backing please! Any hard floor surface will do but this was the biggest space we have.

Next was to prep me which meant getting changed into scruffy clothes, pinning my hair back and getting ready to sweat and swear!

2. Find a willing (or reluctant) helper. Experience has taught me that it's 2000% harder to baste a big quilt alone. Find a friend, have a basting party, bribe the husband with beer and soccer, whatever it takes!

3. Mark the middle of each side of the backing. Backing placement wasn't a huge issue for me as my material was in one piece with no seams or panel. However if you have something that needs to be aligned with the quilt top (for instance you have a panel of seam that needs to be centered) you'll want to have everything lined up. We mark the centre be folding the back in half and then putting a safety pin through the fold on each end. Open up the back, fold it the other way and repeat.

4. Lay the backing out and stick it down to your floor. The back wants to be pretty side down and smooth but not taut. If it's over taut it'll keep coming unstuck from the floor and then wrinkling. I use pretty iridescent peacock duck tape to stick my back down (mainly because it's pretty!) and we use lots of small pieces of tape rather than a few large pieces.

5. Lay your batting on top of the back. I smooth out big wrinkles but don't worry overly about the little ones. They'll quilt out.

6. Stick the batting to the back. I use 505 adhesive spray to baste but if you're pinning (you crazy fool!) then skip this step. I peel back half of the batting to reveal the backing and then spray the revealed half of the back (yes I spray the back as it absorbs less spray than the batting) with spray, using quick, short bursts of the spray. If you do long sprays then the nozzle gunks up. I then lay the batting back over the now sticky back and repeat on the other half of the quilt.

7. Mark the centre of the quilt top edges. As I did with the backing, I use safety pins to mark the centre points of each quilt top side.

8.  Lay the quilt top onto of the batting, pretty side up. Make sure that the safety pins on the edges of the top are in line with the safety pins on edges of the back. You might need to peek under the batting to find the pins in the back. The pins won't lay on top of each other exactly because your back should be bigger than your top but they should at least be in line. Tweak as necessary to make them line up and then smooth the top out.

9. Stick the top to the batting. Peel half the quilt top back and then spray the batting (yes the batting this time as you don't want to accidentally spray your pretty quilt top) with the spray in quick, short sprays. Lay the top back down and smooth out, checking the pins still line up. Repeat with the other half of the quilt. You've got some time to make adjustments if you need to before the spray sticks completely.

10. Leave for at least 20 mins. This gives the spray time to set and adhere. Move the quilt too early and you'll risk the layers separating due to the weight of the quilt. Some people flip the quilt and iron the back at this point to get all those little creases out but I'm too lazy for that! 

11. Remove tape from edges of quilt and quilt! 

I hope this helps anyone thinking about tackling a bed quilt.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Sunday Stash #18

I wouldn't have a lot to show at this week's show-and-tell but for a lightning trip to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. In and out in 1.5 hours - I was a fabric shopping ninja. Look at this bag of goodies!

First up, a fat eighth bundle and a layer cake of Winterberry by Kate and Birdie for Moda. I love this line and it was on my list so hurrah!

Continuing the Christmassy theme, jelly rolls of 25th and Pine by Basic Grey and HolÅ‚y's Tree Farm by Sweetwater both for Moda. Admittedly these weren't on the list but should have been! 

Still in the festive spirit, a layer cake of Cold Spell by Laundry Basket Quilts, Jingle by Kate Spain and Evergreen by Basic Grey, again all for Moda.

A jelly roll in Sewing Box by Gina Martin for Moda (not on the list but look at those colours!).

Also not on the list but definitely in the "I just have to have it now that I've seen it" category were these charm packs of Honky Tonk by Eric and Julie Camstock and True Luck by Stephanie Ryan for Moda. Honky Tonk will be perfect for a boys baby quilt and how haven't I seen True Luck before?! Those washed out soft pastels with grey are lovely! 

On the notions front, I had Bloc Loc rulers and Clover's glass head quilting pins. I managed to get a flying geese (goose?) ruler and a 2.5" and 6.5" ruler from Bloc Loc and the pins (too dull to photograph but invaluable!). I find that my very fine Clover flower head pins are great but being so fine they bend easily. The glass head ones are only slightly thicker but much more stable. 

Not from FoQ but still added to my stash from Fat Quarter Shop were layer cakes of Honeymoon by Sarah Watts for Cotton and Steel and Sturbridge by Kathy Schmitz for Moda. These were on my list but I couldn't find them at FoQ so Fat Quarter Shop to the rescue!

Perhaps the most important addition this week was a lovely pen I was given by a lady I met at FoQ. She'd flown all the way from Sydney in Australia to attend! I truly hope it was worth it! The pen is branded with the name of one of her guilds so, on the off chance that there are any members of the Campbelltown guild reading this, hello! 

Friday, 14 August 2015

I'm back and guess what I've finished?!

I realise that the title for this particular blog might be Stephen King's Shining-esque but it's how I feel at the moment. I'm so glad to be back in the world of technology! I've trying to catch up with everything I've missed but first things first - Kermet and Miss Piggy broke up?! Say it isn't so!

The detox is actually continuing for another two weeks but at least I'm now allowed to use technology again. Let's hope the migraines start to behave now.

Any way, back to quilt news. On the days when I was able to do something practical I got on with the  double pinwheel king-sized quilt and guess what? Yep, the top is pieced, the binding is made and the back is pressed. Short of pre winding the bobbins, I'm ready for basting! I (and probably you) never though this moment would arrive.

I'm not a fan of basting (is anyone?) but I have my semi-willing assistant poised and ready to assist so hopefully it shouldn't take too long.

I would show you a picture of the top but, hand on heart, I actually don't have anywhere big enough to lay it all out fully. I've renamed it "Big Momma" in honour of its size. It's 102" by 120" so it's going to be a squeeze to even bast it in halves on our conservatory floor. If we manage it I'll try and take pics.

In the meantime here's a reminder of what a quarter of it looks like. Please excuse the feet.

And here's it all scrunched up as I finished sewing the last 6" border on.

Two finishes in eight months isn't bad right? Oh dear.

So close I can touch it: double pinwheel block

After a lot of grumbling, moaning and prevarication, the end is almost in sight for the king-sized double pinwheel commission.

All of the blocks are pieced and sewn into quarters. Rather than sewing 12 rows of 10 together I decided to split the quilt into four blocks and sew 6 rows of 5. Then all I have to do is sew the quarters together and put the border on. Simples!

Here's one of the quarters. Excuse the feet please. 

It was only when I was laying the quarters out that I realised quite how big this quilt was going to be; even without it's border on I'm struggling to find floor space big enough to lay it all out on.

Rather than do my usual all-over quilting which would be incredibly time consuming and leave the quilt rather stiff and with little drape, I've decided instead to straight line quilt it using a walking foot. I think I'm going to echo quilt the diagonals rather than the horizontal or vertical lines.

I've found the perfect Aurifil variegated thread in 4650 which is called "Leaves" apparently. All I know is that it's the right combination of red and green with a little yellow/cream mixed in. Sadly there's no blue in it but, as the key colour here was meant to be green, I can live with that.

Perhaps one day I can show you a picture of a finished quilt?!

Just a quick reminder that I'm on my migraine detox now and so all blog postings have been prepared in advance. I won't be able to check my blog for at least two weeks so I'll respond to any comments after 17th August.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Pumpkins and pastures

I've snuck ahead in the Lori Holt's Farm Girl Vintage sew along by piecing next week's blocks early. Although, by the time this blog goes live they'll be last week's blocks. So perhaps I'm behind. Doh.

I can't believe we're up to "P" already in this sew along.

First up is Out to Pasture, a deceptively simple looking block which actually has a partial seam in it. See that innocent looking turquoise strip to the right? Yep, that sucker is a partial seam. I'm always terrified that my two halves of a seam won't match up but they do. Phew!

Next is Patchwork Pumpkin, which called for 30 different orange fabrics. Now, I have a bit of an orange phobia (which I have promised Molli Sparkles that I will resolve one day) so don't have 30 different orange scraps lying around. Instead I used 5 different orange FQs 6 times. Hope that's ok?

I think they came out rather well despite the hidden little challenges?!

Just a quick reminder that I'm on my migraine detox now and so all blog postings have been prepared in advance. I won't be able to check my blog for at least two weeks so I'll respond to any comments after 17th August.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Curvemaster: the curate's egg

This month's GenX Quilters Moccasin block is a curvy variation on a simple nine patch.

 After weeks of straight lines it's good to do something even a little bit curvy! Plus I thought this was an excellent opportunity for me to whip out my Curvemaster foot and give it a whirl.

To cut out the pieces for the patches I used my freezer paper method for tracing templates. This involves tracing the template onto freezer paper, trimming to size with scissions, ironing the freezer paper onto the fabric and then cutting carefully around with a rotary cutter. To avoid cutting my template I mark both the "true" shape and then the larger seam allowance shape outside of the "true" shape. When cutting I line my 1/4" mark on my ruler cut with the "true" shape. A few rotary cutter passes later and I had all my pieces ready to go.

The first step in using the Curvemaster foot is (unsurprisingly) to fit it to your machine. Despite the instructions on the packaging and website, it soon became clear that the foot wouldn't just snap onto Naomi the Janome's ankle. The little bar on the foot (no idea what the technical term is) just wasn't wide enough to fit Naomi's ankle (she's a 8200QC if anyone's interested). 

With a bit of trial and error (and some very careful tightening with a screwdriver) I discovered that the number 4 ankle supplied with the Curvemaster could replace Naomi's standard ankle and then the Curvemaster foot would snap on. 

The next issue was getting the fabric to feed evenly. I'm not sure whether this problem was caused by me choosing the wrong adapter but the two layers of material wouldn't feed even through the machine about 30-50% of the time. Instead the top layer would feed through but the bottom layer would remain static. After a while I was reduced to starting sewing a good 1/8" into my block just to get the feed dogs to bite, backstitching back to the edge of the fabric and then going forwards again. Sometimes even that didn't work.

On the occasions when the material did feed properly, the Curvemaster works like a pro, zipping around those curves and fitting convex and concave pieces together beautifully. Yes, it takes a bit of practice but doesn't anything worthwhile in life?

Just a quick reminder that I'm on my migraine detox now and so all blog postings have been prepared in advance. I won't be able to check my blog for at least two weeks so I'll respond to any comments after 17th August.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Thread love and loyalty

Thread is the centre of the universe. It makes up the core of the earth and holds the planets together. The sun wouldn't shine without thread.

Ok, so I may be over-stating the issue slightly but isn't thread what holds all our projects together? What would a log cabin block or a Dresden plate be without thread? Just a pile of scraps!

I'm fairly picky when it comes to thread because I want my projects to last. I choose the highest quality fabrics and batting so it only makes sense that I choose quality for my thread too.

I piece exclusively with Aurifil 50wt, usually in either 2024 or 2021. I understand that the technical names for these colors are natural white and white but to be honest they seem pretty interchangeable to me!

After a recent rummage through my spools i also discovered a couple of rogue colours - a navy/indigo which I used to piece a white and blue Jacob's ladder, a mini spool of blonde caramel 2000 and a 2600 dove grey which I think I picked up last year at the Festival of Quilts. I think i was planning to branch out away from 2024/2021 with the 2600 dove grey but after a year it's still sitting there! They're still Aurifil 50wt of course. I haven't gone completely crazy.

For quilting I've tried cotton but it always seems to break. I tend to quilt all over quilting patterns in very curvy designs (spirals, paisley, feathers etc) which means that there's a lot of thread build up. Cotton tends to break easily when you quilt over the same line. 

Instead I use Isacord which is a polyester mono fibre. It comes in a variety of colours, of which I've so far used navy, purple, grey and my ubiquitous white. You can quilt over and over and it doesn't break. Perfect! 

Finally I seem to have a random spool of verdant green from Gutermann and some natural white Superior quilting thread. Heaven knows where this came from but I suspect it was a freebie. And it'll probably live at the bottom of my thread box forever more. Or until I run out of thread. But probably the former. 

Just a quick reminder that I'm on my migraine detox now and so all blog postings have been prepared in advance. I won't be able to check my blog for at least two weeks so I'll respond to any comments after 17th Auagust.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Hmm, blue ice cream - my favourite

I'm madly trying to catch up with my various block of the month projects. I'm so behind that it's going to take a while.

I have managed to do June's block (eek!) for the Fat Quarter Shop Snapshots BoM. This one is called "Triple Scoop Sunday" and features my favourite flavor of ice cream - blue.

It's fairly simple to put together and as always with this project, it took almost as long to cut the pieces out as it did to see the block together. 

It also comes in at a fairly hefty 12.5" by 16.5" which is nice and chunky. 

Kind of like how I like my ice cream - blue with chunks. 

Just a quick reminder that I'm on my migraine detox now and so all blog postings have been prepared in advance. I won't be able to check my blog for at least two weeks so I'll respond to any comments after 17th Auagust.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Trans chicken and technicolor milk

First up this week are two blocks from the Lori Holt Farm Girl Vintage sew along project. And they're slightly unusual...

First up - Mama Hen. Now I've not lived there for a while but I'm a country girl at heart and I know a hen when I see one. And that doesn't look like any female chicken I've seen.

When I showed it to my (very gay) housemate he nodded wisely and said "ah yes, missing the wattle but with the comb? It's a mid transition trans chicken." I'm not sure which direction its heading in but it's certainly confused at the moment. But I'm sure we all celebrate it becoming the chicken it was always meant to be. 

Next up is the Milking Day block. Again, the straw-chewing bit of me is frowning at that technicolor milk churn and wondering how hygienic it can be compared to the stainless steel version but I've got to admit that it's cuter! And yes, the Scottie dogs are back floating around in liquids. It's almost a tradition now.

Just a quick reminder that I'm on my migraine detox now and so all blog postings have been prepared in advance. I won't be able to check my blog for at least two weeks so I'll respond to any comments after 17th Auagust.