Wednesday 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

I didn't think I'd manage it, but here it is ... a Christmas post. Nothing like a last minute deadline....

I finished the hand quilting on my Four Block applique quilt and bound it just in time to hang it with the Christmas tree.

I'm just so glad I returned to hand quilting again - different technique and tools - and finally found a way that is pain free for me and totally enjoyable. Here are some closeups of the quilting - not perfection in hand quilting, but it has the soft traditional look that I'm striving for.

And when I say "not perfection" that includes nicking the background with my scissors (insert ladylike expletive at the time) - not just once, but twice - making two little holes! So repairs were required - one I darned as it seemed easiest, and the other was too big and needed a patch. Here they are and the truth is that, in the big picture, they won't get noticed so why worry?

Hole darned

Hole patched
Stars meet Hexagons: 
I finished making daisy chains of hexagons and appliqued them around the border. With a red binding I think that will do. 
I'm thinking of trying big stitch hand quilting on this one. That will be my second venture back into hand quilting and I'm quite excited to try with the thicker thread - Aurifil no 12 perhaps. There are a gazillion seams in this top due to all the little English paper pieced diamonds and hexagons - so I am expecting it might be tougher to stitch through...we'll see. 

Benjamin Biggs wedding quilt:  Block 12 finished - a relatively simple one this time. 

A lot of December busyness has revolved around some landscaping work at home and I now have a wonderful new section of lawn rolled out. The original lawn in this part of the garden was really not a lawn - just an expanse of dust and weeds that the local rabbits had turned into a rabbit warren. Am so thrilled with it now:
The rabbits must have been in shock at the sudden change, but now they hop around on it and munch the grass - but no digging (touch wood). 
Hard to believe the difference the colour green makes - it sets off the hydrangeas like never before.

Hope all your Christmas preparations are going well. I've pretty much done all I'm going to do before The Big Day. After spying some wonderful creations on Pinterest I was going to be whipping up some 'easy' but very impressive Christmas cupcakes. That was the plan and this was my preparation - looks promising? 

Well they turned out either too dry, too moist or too flat, and I won't even start on the various icing failures... not good. Some clever people make it look so easy, sigh.

But I did manage to create a double batch of these (using my homegrown raspberries).

Thanks for all the encouragement and quilting inspiration throughout this year - it has been a wonderful adventure for me.

Have yourselves a Merry little Christmas and all the very best for the New Year. 
He feels like I felt after my cupcake failures!

Monday 8 December 2014

Colours of the Season

Just by chance I seem to be working in Christmas colours at the moment - definitely going through a 'red phase'. I doubt there will be another finish before the end of the year but two projects are getting close.

Stars meet Hexagons ( my version of the quilt from the book 'Promenade in a Dutch Garden')

The centre is finished and all papers removed. Now for the outer border.

First I stitched on a 6 inch solid border in a dark beige/ light tan shade. 

I love the antique Dutch quilt on which this pattern was based - with its amazing applique border. Here is a picture from the book.

I pulled out some red fabrics (toiles and florals) to see if I could maybe, perhaps, give a broderie perse applique border a try - but it wasn't working for me. So what to do? 

I fussy cut the fabrics and prepped 1 inch English Paper Pieced hexagons - the same size used in the centre of my quilt top.

...and made some 'daisy chains'. I'm sure you can guess where this is going. Hopefully there will be more to show next post.

Meanwhile I have really enjoyed hand quilting my Four Block Applique quilt - and true Christmas colours there. 

Here is the quilt with all outline hand quilting done - around every applique shape. In this light my thoughts are "not nice, not nice at all - definitely more quilting needed!"

Adding some centre grid work to the blocks:

Adding parallel lines on the background. For this I am marking only by scoring the fabric - it shows up beautifully in the hoop and disappears under the stitches. 

I've discovered I can download library audio books onto my ipad and listen as I stitch - what a fabulous free service ! I can hand applique, hand piece or knit while watching TV - but I just cannot hand quilt and watch. So the audio books are perfect. 

A friend and I had a do-it-yourself Christmas Card workshop at my house - hoping for a patchwork look with fabric and stitching. It was lots of fun but I'll not be making a business of it - strained my creativity to the very limit!

Here is Benjamin Biggs Wedding quilt Block 11. 

Yep - that looks a lot like Christmas too ?! 

The end of year get-togethers have started - always nice to round-up and catch-up with family. Hope you are enjoying the Season !

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Three more "Red Bride" blocks

Civil War Bride quilt (using the Threadbear pattern) in reds - needle turn applique with back basting prep. I'm finding my light pad invaluable, especially with the fussy cutting. The fabric pattern usually shows up well even from the back when placing pieces for the back basting.

In case you think I whipped them up easily - not true I'm afraid. There were a few fabrics unpicked and changed to get the balance I was happy with, and I'm still not sure...but enough meddling now! 

It was a relief to leave them alone and get back to more 'secret gift' Auntie Green stitching - so calming in the neutrals.  I think a few close up snippets in a collage is not giving too much away? 
For this I am working with appliqued 1/4 inch bias tape stems and back basted prep needleturn for the rest.

Hand quilting practice is going pretty well on my Four Block applique quilt. I have experimented with various devices designed to help reduce pain in the hands - so much so that I felt like Edward Scissorhands at times (great movie but the hands could be awkward and dangerous to coordinate!). 
Persistence is the key with these gadgets and I'm desperate - desperate to find a comfortable method. 

In the left hand under the hoop I have the TJ quick quilter - no more sore finger tip and it seems to make my stitches more even in size (always a bonus) - love it.

I know gadgets are a very personal thing so this is just what works for me. I should tell you that I have  'knobby' arthritic fingers (no I am not going to show you - believe me - not pretty) so getting a thimble to fit and to stay on is a challenge. 

On the right hand I have an open adjustable thimble - love the tip for pushing the needle through. Also in the right hand is the yellow needle puller. It took a while to adjust to this but I now think it is brilliant. Previously I had tried different sizes of silicon and rubber thimbles (on thumb and forefinger) to help with needle pulling and they did the job well. But, because of my very knobbly finger joint, they either fell off or cut off the circulation (visualise finger tip turning blue by stages). 

We went on a family bush walk south of Sydney at the weekend - was lovely to spot spring flowering Australian flora such as this flannel flower (or Actinotus helianthi 'Starbright' if you must know) native to Sydney. The petals and leaves are as soft as felt - hence the name 'flannel' .

Flowers about 2 inches across

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Benjamin Biggs BOM - two rows down

That's ten 12 inch blocks done now, and time to lay them out for a 'play'. I won't stitch them together yet just in case I want to change something later . 

This is the latest one finished - Block 10 - rather an unusual one I think...not quite sure what these four elements depict but I stitched it anyway! They look a bit like candle sticks but maybe they are a simplified stem and flower. I checked in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Applique but there's nothing quite like it, though in outline it could resemble four fleur-de-lis. Any thoughts?

Civil War Bride -  for my second block I jumped across to Block 11 (the numbering in the Threadbear pattern) .

Four block applique quilt: Last post I mentioned that I want to improve my hand quilting technique. I used to hand quilt by stitching forwards (I was taught 20 odd years ago and that was it) - and then got a lot of hand/ wrist pain. I am now teaching myself the rocking motion and quilting towards myself - and feel so lucky to have loads of YouTube video tutorials and blogs to study. 
Anyway...I want to dive in with a smallish test quilting project. There is a pile of completed Baltimore Album blocks which have been abandoned  living in a cupboard here (you know how it is...not happy with the standard of my older work). But I thought I'd pick out four of the better ones and make a small wall quilt - instant hand quilting practice!
First trimming the blocks with my Karen Buckley adjustable square (love this tool) - and they really needed adjustment I can tell you.

Blocks sewn together: 

Then I needle-turn appliqued a saw tooth border to finish it off (lucky I still had plenty of the red fabric left) :

Basting the layers together ready to hand quilt - it measures about 1 metre ( 39 inches) square:

And I'm off...quilting around all the applique pieces: 

I'm pretty slow, the stitches are far from perfect, but am feeling more confident all the time, and loving it. One thing I wanted to avoid was holding up the layers with a hand hoop - used to give me such a wrist pain - but I don't want to invest in a floor stand or frame at this stage. So I bought a hands free 'sit-upon' rotating quilt hoop from Thimblelady - seemed a good start and reasonably economical. I'm finding it comfortable to use sitting on the lounge and the hands are pain free so far.

I've got a lot of applique going on as you can see above - and that doesn't include my secret sewing of Auntie Green. But there are more temptations out there. Have a look at Wendy's new free applique BOM - just lovely!

And what's going on here? ... In Sydney with my daughter and her fiance when she was admitted as a solicitor this month. 
some happy tomfoolery there...
We celebrated after the ceremony with a champagne silver service High Tea in the Queen Victoria Building - such a treat. 
beautiful ceiling

There's been a touch of Summer in the weather. Too early for me (what happened to Spring?) but some things in the garden are loving it.

Monday 6 October 2014

Thrilled and relieved...

Just a quick post to show you why I'm thrilled and relieved in equal measure!

My version of the Ann Randoll coverlet (started in Rhonda Pearce's workshop) is now a complete quilt top. I have to admit I'd been putting off the final sew-together and attachment of that last border - dreading that there might be "issues". All those hours of applique could have distorted the measurements - but amazingly it went together just fine...can't quite believe it really...

I've hung it for photos using pants hangers - works well as a temporary measure for photos. 
It is about 210 cm square ( 83 inches square). 

Now to consider the quilting. I am working on my hand quilting technique to try to relieve hand /wrist pain - trying different methods and tools but am not confident I can tackle a whole quilt. So I'm thinking I may machine stitch the long seams ( the less noticeable parts) and add some hand quilting after. I do much prefer the look and feel of hand quilting but we do what we can ...