Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Shenn Valley Botanical Album update

First block was the Pineapple , and Second block in the Sewalong is the Flag Iris B-2:
Block B2 - 12 inch block
I have changed the colours as I'd rather stay clear of blue or purple in my version. Are there such things as pink and yellow flag iris? It wouldn't surprise me as there are so many iris colour variations. But never mind accuracy - after all the original quilt has pink and red pineapples ...

photo from SVBAQ blog
Now for a funny thing. I thought I'd get in early last month and make the second block...guessing the next block would be the second along in the top row. Well I was fooled there wasn't I? 
Anyway here is my "Second" block , completed end of October. 
I'll show you the steps as it grew - using back basting prep for needle turn applique.

Tracing the design onto the back of the background fabrics

Removing basting thread ahead of needle turn applique

So now I have four blocks. They're not stitched together, just pinned on the design board, and that yellow pineapple block will be moved away on a far corner in final placement.

There has not been quite as much time for sewing recently - hence the 'getting in early' with SVBAQ. Two weeks to go till my daughter's wedding means time spent ticking tasks off the List. Wedding talk follows so you may want to leave now. 

I mentioned last post that all the wedding flowers are to be sourced in my garden. Well - gardening being a very imprecise science - things have flowered quite differently from last year at this time.  I have the photos taken last year to prove it! Some things that should be flowering are late, and others have flowered early. My rows of white roses have flowered earlier than expected...and may well be past it by the wedding.

Several hydrangea bushes were not expected to be in flower yet - but are well on the way and should be just right for the wedding.  

So it may well be that we swap a lot of white roses for a lot of young hydrangeas - just as nice I think! and there is lots of floral potential lurking in the other beds too. 

My daughter is hoping for a relatively relaxed, natural look in her bouquet so I picked a few flowers and foliage to experiment with - perhaps something like this but maybe less roses, more foliage and more hydrangeas? 

Another thing on the List is Confetti Cones - to be filled with rose petals and dried lavender. The plan is to hang these off the end chairs along a lawn aisle between rows of white chairs - ready for the guests to pelt shower the Happy Couple as they leave the ceremony. 
So I spent a few minutes yesterday on a Pinterest search "confetti cones" ...astonished to find hundreds of pictures and dozens of tutorials! This wedding caper is clearly not a new thing - many others have been there and done that!

Started with this lot  - including dried lavender from my garden and some double sided tape.

Came up with this ...apparently torn paper gives a "professional look".

Will show the Bride this weekend and hopefully she'll be rapt. 

The succulents I am growing for favours just can't wait for the wedding. They are growing at a great rate and even started flowering. Have I given them too much tender loving care perhaps? 
No problem - they'll be even more decorative on the tables and hopefully the guests will love them too.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Civil War bride ready to quilt

I wasn't intending to quilt it right now - the top was folded away while I focused on a few hand applique projects, gardening, daughter's wedding prep etc. But it caught my eye in the sewing room yesterday afternoon...and before I knew it it was prepped!

... I thought I'd just see what wadding I had left - and found a collection of large off cut strips. In a 'twinkling' four pieces of wool were stitched together - just zig zag on the machine.
Wadding strips - edges butted together, not overlapped

Large zigzag across the join
Then I just thought I'd see if there was a chance of a backing fabric lurking in the stash. I have a shelf of "less liked" fabric that I rummage through for backings, especially for a quilt like this which will probably be hung and the backing never seen. Well ...found something straight away! 

So then, in another 'twinkling', I had it layered on the floor. Can you see the wonky edges of the wadding - all odd strips stitched together? yep ..I'm no perfectionist as long as it lies flat.

..and while it was all laid out there I thought I may as well pin it. I can imagine you snorting but it only took a couple of hours from "spotted in sewing room" to basted and in the hoop. Amazing what you can do when you're not actually meaning to! 

It feels good to have another hand quilting project and I'm going to enjoy a few hours of outline quilting all that applique. 

My Wheat and Woods design is progressing - all strips and corner blocks stitched together into a square. There was quite a bit (understatement there) of trial and error so I'm relieved to get to this stage. 
I'm planning a wide outer border - with more applique and broderie perse. More trial and error coming up for sure! 

Spring is a busy time in the  garden - just ask my two friendly garden helpers - Bill and Ben the Blue Tongue Lizards 
basking on warm concrete

gardening duties

rushing off to more gardening duties

Can you see the blue tongue?
They are pretty relaxed about sharing the garden with me,  and work hard at gobbling up pesky snails but I do wish they could manage a pair of secateurs or a weeding tool. 
This is breeding season for these much loved Australian creatures so I'm guessing I should be more correctly naming them Bill and Belinda

My daughter's wedding preparations are ramping up (for the end of November).
I have been anxiously growing these succulents for months - favours for the guests. There was a serious set back in the frost and snow here but they are now thriving indoors in a sunny spot - phew. 

There's also been a lot of collecting of decorations and table cloths. 

All the flowers are to be sourced from my garden (no pressure) so I 'm doing all I can to keep the plants happy. White iceberg roses, ivy, maples and silver foliage plants will be the backbone of it, and I'm hoping for a variety of salvia flowers too. Fingers crossed for no nasty weather events to create garden havoc!  

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A finish and a start

Finished project....

My version of  the Ann Randoll coverlet
Just to recap - I started it in January 2014 when I was lucky to attend a great workshop with Rhonda Pearce who had just drafted her own pattern. The original antique coverlet (in the V and A in England) is huge - 147 inches (3.75m) by 118 inches -  too big for me!  So I worked a few changes - made my version square, omitted the large outer pinwheel border, and drafted my own final border (the  one with hexagons and applique). My quilt finishes at 82 inches square - hand quilted. 

If you recall, I added a wide border of scrap fabric just to help in the hoop with hand quilting the edges. So that had to be unpicked and removed before trimming the batting/backing to size - easy enough (she says). 

Adding a solid brown binding to match the dog tooth edging:

...including a hanging pocket along the top at the back: 

There we are -  bound and hung (...sounds painful?)

I'm very happy with it and love the hand quilted finish but I tell you what - just for now - I need a change from brown! I actually really like brown but is it Spring and the timing seems right for something fresher and lighter. 

New project...
Shenandoah Valley Botanical Album sewalong (SVBAQ) - and no brown in sight here. For more info on this project see the SVBAQ blog

Civil War quilt... Quilt, Botanical, 1859 Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Album quilt of local flowers with Union Forever square Made by Esther Matthews for her grandson Addison Blair Martz (died at Chancellorsville, May 1863) Cotton; appliqu├ęd and quilted:
Picture from Marcus Mentions website

I've made a change in my greens selection for this quilt. There was a lot of dithering indecision last post trying to pick just the right shade of green, and I had a feeling it wasn't over! But now I am committed...out with the old and in with the new.  

So - to make a start - I am piecing my background squares (to make a 12 inch finished block). I cut background fabrics in to 7 inch squares (allowing the extra inch to play with) and machine stitched them together. 
Now I don't want a nasty big bump of seam allowance in the middle - won't be fun to applique over that! So I'm following a good tutorial "How to reduce bulky seams when piecing patchwork blocks" (thank you, thank you for this) and here is the back of the first block:

..and the front - nice and flat:

My chosen applique technique is needleturn with back basting prep. Here is the first block drawn on the back of the block : 

...and in no time I had two blocks completed. I think the idea is to complete one block a month but this is a relatively easy one, and will be repeated three times in the quilt,  so I couldn't resist making two:

They do feel like Spring don't they? Such a lovely pattern ....

I have three Dogwood trees in my garden. They don't grow fast here as the heat knocks them back a bit, but this Spring they are the best they've ever been - especially this little one. Now that is a good effort - extra mulch and water for you! 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015


Benjamin Biggs Block of the Month has now only four more monthly blocks to go. In a last minute rush I have caught up with all the blocks so far. (Of course there is also the swag border but we won't mention that - not done a stitch on that yet!)

In the process I learnt an important lesson : "Rushing applique blocks is not a good idea ...and can lead to much activity with the unpicker". Here are my rushed blocks... can you spot the problem?
Block 19
Block 20

Block 21
Block 19 was fine but the corner buds in Block 20 and 21 are all facing the wrong way...grrr.
After much debudding with unpicker and rebudding with needle and thread,  the first 20 blocks are now stitched together and the last row started. 

And the reason for the rush to catch up with B Biggs? I am signing up to the Shenandoah Valley Botanical Album BOM organised by Doreen and Dawn - couldn't resist as it is too lovely! They've set up this great blog all ready to start in October (click link).
I purchased the download pattern and made a few printing experiments with A4 paper on my home printer - to decide on a block size. It could be enlarged to any size you like. Dawn is making the blocks 9 inches but I'm not quite so brave and will do 12 inches (same as my B Biggs blocks).

I printed a couple of the blocks twice - varying the enlargement slightly to adjust the amount of open space around the flowers - just to see which look I prefer. 
more open space

less open space
My personal preference is the second enlargement group - less open space - filling the block more fully. It's not a big difference but means larger applique pieces - that's going to be easier stitching!

I love all the Shenandoah garden flower blocks - but don't think I will include the rainbow block or the Tree of United States block. These blocks were no doubt the most significant and important in the quilt for Esther when she stitched it, and of great historical value in the context of the American Civil War. My version will merely be inspired by the flowers of her garden - with a couple more block repeats to make up the difference.

Now for fabric selection - I'm not being adventurous and am hoping to use what I have in the stash . Usually I applique on to a solid background - a shade of cream (as in my Auntie Green, Civil War Bride, B Biggs etc). But this time I have pulled a selection of muted prints in creams and greens to try for backgrounds. I'll stitch four squares of different prints together as the background for each block.
Background possibilities
For the flowers...

For the leaves and stems - hmm - this one gave me difficulty. I have a collection of greens that I have been using for B Biggs - lovely shades of poison green - but I'd like a change from that. A bit of a warmer green this I have a solid and a tiny check that will do for starters. 
The fabric choices will 'evolve' once I get started things could well change. Am looking forward to seeing all the different versions to be made.

In August I visited the Quilt Show in Canberra in August - an easy 1 1/2 hour drive from here. This quilt was striking - lovely hand quilting:
Tokyo Pop by Jo Pulko

On another quilt cute hexagons brighten a grey quilt border:

This made me smile - a feeling we all know ?

I bought a kit at the Show to make folded fabric stars - thinking "Christmas"- and made the two in the kit ( Japanese fabrics),  and then four more from my own fabrics - very quick, very fun. 

I found a tutorial on Pinterest here in case you'd like to try - only four small strips of fabric per star and no sewing apart from attaching a thread to hang. Something to pop in Christmas cards?

Last weekend I had visitors and took them to see the tulips in town. Every September here it is "Tulip Time"  - tourist crowds and traffic chaos but only for two weeks. Us locals know the best time to view the tulips is before the official opening and before the crowds. There are always a few beds of naughty rebel tulips that misbehave and put on a wonderful display a week or two earlier than ordered. These were my favourite rebels last weekend:

Enjoy Spring/ Autumn wherever you are!