My quilting thoughts and inspirations sprinkled with a glimpse of life down on the farm

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bordering on Madness

aka  2013 FMQ Challenge #5
*Madness* because I have had several months to do this challenge but I left it to the last minute (always too many deadlines and things to sew-start-finish-dream about)
*Madness* because a tiny centre with many borders GROWS rather larger than you imagine
*Madness* resulting in the invention of a new mantra - say to self before doing ANYTHING - Think twice Sew once (actually it wasn't too bad but there was the occasional reverse sew at the corners)
*Madness* because it was a lot of fun
*Madness* because the moment I rinsed this out to remove the markings with the intention of hanging it in the 'gentle' breeze it started raining (yes, it was forecast and had been threatening all day)

It's all about Borders is the last challenge for me in the SewCalGal 2013 FMQ Challenge.
(These photos are all of a 'slightly damp' top - I guess it helps to show the stitching!!).
Design and make a quilt with 8-10 borders, all of them to be different. At least two of them need to be designs shared by Patsy Thompson in last year's border challenge
A few posts back I shared an EQ7 layout diagram of the quilt I was making for this challenge. I decided to make mine whole cloth style so I drew in all the borders before I got started.
I went back and studied the tutorial from last year. Patsy had used worms, spirals, loopy things and feathers. I saw/remembered how she had varied the motif size and style of each border so it contrasted with its neighbours.
I used these ideas and designs as a basis for my quilt.
In case you think you only see 7 borders, the first one is the Half Square
Triangles and worms around the central block.
My border widths went from 1'' through to 2" and the final border was 4". I inserted ½" 'empty' borders in between every second border. Of course these also increased the total size of the quilt so the last few borders seemed to take forever to get around!! The final size (at this stage) is 36" x 38". I may finish it off with some echo-ing around the outer feathers and then...??!
I also used this as an opportunity to try out some of Lori's tutorials; if you haven't visited her blog, you must, she has great quilting inspiration.
Here is the resulting top  —
The photos don't look very exciting sorry, I used a beige fabric which of course looks very washed out in the photos. But you get the idea at least.
So a final thankyou to SewCalGal for coming up with more fmq challenges for us this year. I have enjoyed extending my skills and using them in different ways.
Thank you for your visits and comments on my last few posts. My apologies to those of you who I haven't replied to or visited. I've been pretty focussed on getting this challenge completed. Normal transmission should return soon!
In the meantime,
Happy stitching,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Free Motion Mail

aka 2013 FMQ Challenge #4
Another of the opportunities offered by SewCalGal for this year's challenge was the Postcard Swap. I did not join the swap that she mentioned but have been taking part in the swaps run by Sheila, as well as doing a couple of private swaps. Regular readers will have seen the postcards dotted around my posts over the last few months, so I have kept the photos to a minimum.
These shots show proof that I fmq-ed my cards :-)
A nice little challenge deciding what to do and how to do it.
My two yellow cards. The top one has quite a few pebbles
in the background, the bottom was echoed.
The red cards. Again, echo-ing and swirley backgrounds
completed each card.
I had a lot of fun doing these cards and have joined up for another, Christmas, swap. It took me a while to work out how to make them but ended up by backing my front fabric with a soft, slightly padded iron-on stabiliser. I then did all my free-motion stuff. I found that using my embroidery hoop (top picture) at times was really helpful. Using Quilters' Muslin for the back, I then ironed on layers of interfacing, giggly cloth and visofix until I was happy with the firmness (using up scraps from days gone by!). Satin stitching around the edge finished them off. Here I found the heavier quilting threads were better to use. For the one that I used a standard sewing thread I went around twice to get the finish I was happy with.
My nephew, on the other hand, used cardboard and glue in the middle of his postcards. We needed to develop a method that he could use at home, away from a stash of years of sewing's leftovers! A couple of his were 'scenic' (note the cows in the paddock in the photo below, complete with rays of sunshine and fences!) the others were 'appliqued'.

His parents, Nana and sister were all going to be unindated with cards. Thank you to Sheila and JoAnne who also agreed to swap cards with him :-)
Thank you for visiting, happy stitching, have a lovely day,

Monday, October 28, 2013

Feather Fun

aka 2013 FMQ Challenge #3
Another of the challenges for this year's FMQ challenge run by SewCalGal is called Feathers. As a budding free-motion-quilter, that really excited me - oh to master the beautiful feather!!
The tutorial for this challenge was provided by Joanne of Thread Head. Joanne encouraged us to have a look at different styles of feathers, figure out what we like and try quilting some feathers to work out our own unique style.
On her blog, she backed the tutorial up with a post titled "The Evolution of my Quilting Style".
Armed with my own blank canvas, I made my first sample.
For this sample I really wanted to determine how I best liked to quilt my feathers. I already knew I'd much rather sew them freehand than following lines but I really wanted to know if there was a 'correct' way and if it really matters what method I use?
The first feather of the sample was stitched in one
continuous upwards movement - L-R-L-R-L with
no stitched spine first
This branch was made using the bump-bump method.
This was the echo-feather as taought by Diane Gaudynski in last year's
FMQ challenge
These lobes were -sort of - echo swirl. Tutorial used to be here but
has been removed. Mine aren't quite swirly enough!
This is the whole of my first sample.
 I (literally!) pulled my first sample to bits, analysing what worked for me and what didn't. It was only ever meant to be a bit of a sample so I wasn't too concerned about the sewing imperfections :-) but looked at things liked the structure, shape of the lobes, balance etc etc. I decided I preferred to stitch a feather by completing each lobe individually and then over stitching as I start a new lobe. (Not sewn on the sample!)
One thing the sample piece showed me was that I really needed to do a better job of branching out my new plumes of feathers. The branches looked like they have just been poked into the main plume like a flower arrangement done by my husband. So all the spines needed to be drawn in and stitched out right from the start so that they would flow out from the main spine nicely.
So — second sample traditionally stitched feathers and all spines pre-stitched.
Sample #2
The branches all flow out from the main spine quite nicely.
Even the back looked good.
So I was pretty happy with how that sample looked. But then I put my critical eyes on and decided that while it was pretty it was a bit unexciting. And if I'm stitching feathers why is most of the sample background filler? And the base of the spine looks a bit silly sitting there in mid-air. I was happy though that I was starting to get a shape I liked with my lobes.

 So — third sample.
The spine emerges from a corner which then enabled me to base my main feather shape on the Koru (a spiral shape based on an unfurling Silver Fern frond, used alot in NZ Maori art).
I tried to make this one take up most of my fabric!
And decided simple background fillers could possibly be quite effective. 
I also experimented a bit with overlapping the plumes, and how to do
feather lobes in the middle of a spiral!
Ok, but could I stop there? No!! How about the feather sitting in something? How about a bit more whimsy, a bit more playing...?
So — fourth sample.
I sat this feather in a horseshoe and played a bit with spirals and flourishes within the lobes.
Sample #4

 I realy loved stitching this one up and can see me playing some more :-)
Here are the 4 samples together, showing you the actual colours used!
Each bound one is about the size of an A4 piece of paper.
They were all stitched with Aurifil 40 weight and the batting used is
a 90:10 wool:poly mix.
Thank you Joanne for a great tutorial and for getting me to think outside the square with my feathers. Thank you to SewCalGal for hosting the FMQ challenge. To see more feather adventures from this challenge, go to this link and click on everyone's link-up pictures.
Happy sewing! See you another time,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Two Small (very different) Things

A quick little post to say Hello and tidy up a few loose ends...
The first is my One Christmas Item a Month item ... this monthly incentive to add to our Christmas goodies is hosted by the lovely Narelle of Pins and Whiskers.
This is a fairly simple wee decoration made by stitching the reindeer and then appliqueing it to the red. Kinda cute I thought so I may have to make a couple more :-)
{The reindeer stitchery is a beetreedesign. I printed it off in 2010 so I was pleasantly surprised to see the pattern (and others) is still available. I put it together the same way as the cute ornaments of last year's Aurifil Holiday Blog Hop 2012.}
And just in case you think the photo above shows that I have put out my Christmas decorations early.... look at the photo below... clever huh... this is the December page of my Kim Diehl calendar!!

(For those of you not doing the following challenge I won't be in the least bit offended if you hit the delete button now!)
The second loose end is regarding the SewCalGal FMQ Challenge I am doing. When checking out requirements on her site I realised that SewCalGal had challenged us EQ users to share our designs for the "It's All About Borders" Challenge. Woohoo I thought, I have used EQ7 to help me with my border design. Obviously it is probably too late to be of use to anyone else however I will share it anyway.
The challenge item is still under the machine (as we speak) so I am not showing it yet.
Here is the 8-bordered layout I have come up with. Admittedly it is very basic but I did spend some time playing with different widths. The nature of computer design makes it very straightforward to play and experiment; I try to use it when I can as it is all good practise and familiarity.
I decided on increased border widths radiating out from the centre, broken up periodically with unquilted borders.
And here it is drawn up and ready to sew!
Back to sewing those borders, thank you for visiting, see you another time,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Geese, a Playground and Stars

Hello again, gosh I don't know what is happening but just at the moment these blog posts are coming thick and fast!
I've made some good progress on a couple of my evening stitching projects. I've now finished Block 4 of Lynette Anderson's latest Button Club, Chateau Hexagon.
Aren't these Cranky Geese characters? ... they look like butter wouldn't melt...!
Love this button!
(Leanne, I can't help but think of you when I look at these! Everyone else, click here to see what I'm talking about!)

And I've also finished Block 2 of Quiltmania's current mystery. Sorry it needs a good press, I'm always worried about pressing applique and stitching as I don't want to flatten it all..... has anyone got a good tip of how to press a block like this?
Aren't the little touches like the skipping rope too cute? Amazing the
different look you can achieve by simply using a few more strands of thread.
(I've just checked the real piece to make sure that bit of fluff we can see in
the photo above is just fluff and not my seam falling apart - whew,
I was worried for a minute there!!)
I have recently been tutoring a series of classes at my favourite quilt shop. We had four classes, holding the last one last week.
We called it StarMastery - covering different stars with lots of variations for each to keep everyone's brain's ticking. It was lots of fun, although I will admit to feeling slightly uneasy when several of my sewing buddies decided to take part!! They wanted to keep me on my toes, I think, and I hope the feeling was mutual - insert a sly he-he here!
Here are some of the stars made, they all look so cool and different of course in everyone's unique fabrics.
You'll notice that I was one of those teachers who gave homework.... and you 'll be able to see who did their homework and who didn't!!
Leeanne in Kansas Troubles
Kerry (if you click on the photo you may see that
Kerry is using a NZ Paua print as her colour inspiration)
Liz, who missed a couple of classes; we'll hold a catch-up soon.
Kerryn's been hanging her's up on the wall. Didn't get the best photo sorry Kerryn.
(But I did get some good advertising for the shop!!)
These are the samples I made for the classes.
 We still need to discuss different ways of putting them together, it will be so much fun to see what everyone does with them :-)
Time for bed to recharge my batteries for some serious sewing tomorrow :-)
Happy stitching everyone, and thank you for visiting,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Splat sewing

aka 2013 FMQ Challenge #1
You may remember the Free Motion Quilting Challenge run by SewCalGal last year. I took part and had a lot of fun. There were different tutorials and challenges to complete each month. (See mine here.) It really pushed me out of my comfort zone, and above all, made certain that I practised and practised and practised some more. When SewCalGal said she was running a challenge again this year I was keen to sign up.
My FMQ Sampler from 2012
The challenge has been run differently this year. Rather than a monthly focus there has been a series of challenges published throughout the year with most of them having the completion date of October 31st.
(The exception to this was the AAQI Piece, where we were encouraged to make a quilt to donate to Alzheimer Quilts. Sadly, in spite of good intentions, this date passed me by and I missed the challenge completely.)

So what I have labelled as Splat sewing was the first challenge offered. Libby Lehman was a guest on The Quilt Show demonstrating her Threadplay quilting technique. This was shown free for a few months so everyone could watch it and have a play with her technique.

I cant say I am terribly impressed with my attempts at this technique.  However, I learnt a lot by doing this, as usual it was good practise and it also opened up my eyes to other possiblilties with free motion quilting. Libby's pieces are beautiful, but mine need a lot more work to achieve a 'pleasing effect'!
We start by drawing a 'splat' on our fabric and outlining it in thread... just on the top layer of fabric at this stage..
Then we scribble inside the shapes (you really do need to use a hoop for this to keep the single layer of fabric taut. It was the first time I had used a hoop and found it really helpful. When I did some postcards later on I pulled out the hoop again).
This did get a little tedious so I started doodling, then covered
the doodles up!
Then 'shade' one side of each shape with another coloured thread...more scribbling, just a narrow band this time. [My main scribbling was done with Invisafil threads (100 weight) and the shading was a Mettler Polysheen 40 weight.]
Now sandwich and quilt as desired (hehe), and ta-da it's done.
Here is my Splat!
Apart from keeping within the lines, few fmq skills are required so it is good for playing and getting the feel for your fmq-ing . As well as getting the width of the band right, I think the real success for this project would lie in choosing your threads and colours well. I think it is a technique you could incorporate within a quilt, eg if you needed a ribbon or similar twirling, shaded shapes.
To see some of the fabulous work done by others who have tried this technique click here and scroll down to the Mr Linky.
So thank you once again SewCalGal for opening up my eyes to another technique. I'll be back in a few days with another of the challenges!
Happy sewing everyone,

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Friday Night Sew In

FNSI started off with a hiss and a roar with some free motion quilting, but slowed down considerably when I decided I really didn't like the colour thread I was using. So I swapped my sewing machine for a quick-unpic; a pity I didn't make that decision  before stitching out 4 spines and one side of some feathers!  
Never mind, a bit of dogged determination and soon (-ish) the job was done.
The unpicking was helped by a bit of much needed comfort food, (self-saucing chocolate pudding).
I decided not to spend the evening doing any more machine work so I pulled out my Chateau Hexagon instead.
I had kept up really well with the first few blocks but let myself get behind.
Timmie helped me tonight and we made some good progress.
I just have two bees to stitch then I can call Block Four done.
After the frustrating start it was a pleasant evening! Hopefully today I will get back to those feathers with my new thread colour!!
Have a lovely weekend everyone,
Happy Stitching!