Saturday, 27 February 2016

The finishing line...

My Benjamin Biggs journey started in January 2014. Thanks to the monthly free blocks from Sentimental Stitches (25 blocks plus border) it has kept many of us plugging along ever since. Thinking of the border kept me going -  my favourite part of this quilt. Mind you...I think I've had enough of applique buds for a wee while! 

I hung the just-completed top in my Golden Ash tree for an early morning photo. 

The back looked interesting in the  morning light.

Mr and Mrs King Parrot  were twittering at me from higher branches. I was in the way of their breakfast feeder. Excuse me, and a few minutes later ..
Mrs King Parrot

Mr is politely waiting his turn
And a little finish to report: I spied a lovely  kit on Instagram and very soon this arrived in the mail from Cutting Cloth. Intriguing?
A sewing box ! "Yummy" I thought, "How hard can it be?"

Well, it took me two solid days of work - super addictive but challenging!  Luckily the instructions were very clear and thorough. Imagine a bit of fun giant's EPP combined with a great deal of invisible stitching at tricky angles (with the facial expressions to match).

Decided not to make the pattern pincushions (have plenty already) but I just love the sewing box and it plays nicely with my other accessories.

I've only started one new quilt this year ( Sarah Fielke BOM) - and the self restraint has nearly killed me! There has been so much temptation out there as you all know. But you see, I'd done a little count and frightened myself by finding that I am working on 8 different large quilts - quite enough to be getting on with for now. Ben Biggs can now rest in the quilting queue while I give more time to the others. 

Am looking forward to posting a big finish next time. Can you guess which it might be? 

(PS the other quilts in my progress list are Shenandoah Valley /SVBAQ, Indigo Circles/Quilty 365, Civil War Bride, Wheat and Woods, Harrison Rose, Grandmother's Garden and Sarah Fielke's BOM)

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Busy working on the learning curve

This month's SVBAQ block is the Tulip A-5
Not too tricky to applique and I love the pattern.

It set me thinking about the many skills involved in making quilts and the very many different ways we make them. Many learning curves that look a bit like this graph. The plateau is where we'd like to be - that comfortable spot at the top. Doesn't mean we are 'the best in the business' - just at our own 'happy' point.

(image borrowed from mind-muffins blogspot)
I'm on a comfortable plateau with hand applique - not perfect, but good enough to make it a happy process. Totally addicted to the process actually ! 

English Paper piecing (EPP) is another technique I love - never really had a 'slow beginning' phase - just charged straight on up that slope as the whole process suited me so well. My first project was the queen sized Cream Tea in 2011 (pictured in my Header). 

And hand quilting? Well I had a very, very 'slow beginning' phase that lasted about 20 years LOL!  and then last year I rediscovered it with new tools, different technique and hit the 'steep acceleration' stage in a big way. I'm now thinking I may have reached my 'plateau' and am totally addicted to that process too. It's not a judgeworthy plateau but it is my happy point.

We all have our own skills and different 'happy points' don't we?

As I mentioned in January , this year I'm hoping to hit that learning slope with American piecing ( as distinct from EPP or Foundation Paper piecing).  There are huge gaps in my knowledge in this area and that is why I signed up to Sarah Fielke's BOM. 
So - how's it going? Definitely on the 'slow beginning' phase but enjoying it. 

Sarah gave us a bonus video on making a block book - great idea and great tutorial. First to make a design to decorate the front of my book. I went with a combination of EPP, applique and quilting - staying in the comfort zone here :) 

And here's my book:

While I was motivated I also made a portable block pad too - to make sure my block pieces stay in the correct places while stitching. It is just a piece of strong cardboard and scraps of batting stuck on the front but very useful now:

Here it is in action with the 12 inch Churn dash block - first month's pattern pieces cut out (with great care) and laid out ready to stitch.

I decided to try hand piecing but how to mark the seams for accuracy? Rummaging in a drawer I found a handy block tool that seemed made for the job - don't know how many years this has been lurking in there LOL! It allows clear dots to be marked at corners with 1/4 inch allowance. Then I penciled in seam lines too - taking no chances here. The prep was slow but I think it paid off as the blocks came together quite well.

First month's work - a 12 inch Churn dash and two 6 inch stars - not bad for the Beginners slope?

I'm using a combination of solids, prints, toiles and some linen for texture. They're mostly from the stash but the beautiful Le Marais toile is a new addition. My colour theme is what you might call 'Antique English' - based on a Pinterest session where I pinned pictures of antique English quilts (with the look I liked) on a board. Here is a sample screenshot of my pinning.

Quilting on my Civil War Bride quilt is going surprisingly quickly - now I'm doing the background. Thanks so much for all your thoughts on what might work for the background fill. I decided a half inch cross hatch would be good. But when I started it (just a few diagonal lines) I loved the look of that and left it there! So the background to all the  blocks is now finished - 1/2 inch diagonal lines. And I am working on a double parallel line in the border. 

border quilting 
There are some larger applique pieces that need a little extra quilting too. I tried some stippling on a table cloth - just single stitches placed at random and carried through the layers:

...and some 1/4 inch parallel lines on a vase : 

...and this vase is about to get some curving lines. See the lines marked with the hera marker?

Phew - sorry for the long waffling blog post. Might be overcompensating for tiny snapshots on Instagram! 
Have a good stitching week.