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!

Saturday 5 September 2015

A picture tells a thousand words...

...and what does this one tell? Well - it is Spring here and my daffodils are flowering cheerfully in the garden, and indoors. But also - the basting pin tin is full again! Every last pin is out of my Ann Randoll quilt and that is something to celebrate. 
Once that last pin was out I spread the quilt to review the quilting - checking there was enough of it. Being a medallion quilt with multiple borders the quilting needs to look balanced across each border. 
I'm happy with the centre... 

...happy with the clamshell border (just quilted in the ditch) 

..happy with the pinwheel border (quilted in squares) 
hmmm...not so happy with the two applique vine borders. Here I have a nasty case of 'Introduced Puckers'! See them?

There were no puckers or crinkles when the top was pieced but they easily get introduced when the fabric either side is quilted more densely. I was rather expecting this to happen, but hoping to get away with it. There's a bit more of it than I like, relative to the other borders. 

Solution?  Add a grid on the cream background of the applique borders. I use a large triangle ruler and a Hera marker to score the lines - very easy and quick.

The scored marking shows up beautifully in the hoop -  all ready to quilt: 

Here's some of the border before quilting the grid - complete with crinkles:

And some border after grid quilted - behaving better:

You might be thinking "What a huge bother!" but for me, it is a pleasure to hand quilt grid work around applique. You see, for years I have done it by machine - on my domestic machine - and I found it so tedious that way - all the stop/start, fixing a million threads and cutting a million threads. When hand quilting you just pass the thread between the layers from place to place - blissfully easy!

Here is an Carolina Lily quilt which was quilted on my domestic machine. 

I went to a lot of trouble to give it the look of hand quilting because I just could not hand quilt ( or thought I couldn't) at that time. It took about a month to quilt on my machine but I'm guessing I could now hand quilt it in 3 months - and enjoy the process so much more. Interesting to look back in time.  
So I'll continue hand quilting Ann Randoll - I need to finish the two vine borders and then am thinking to add some parallel lines on the outer large hexagon border. It has only a mild case of Introduced Puckers  so not such dense quilting needed ...I hope. 

Meanwhile Wheat and Woods is growing.

A this point I decided I didn't fancy the itty bitty fractions of brown squares around the edges of the outer border applique triangles - looked too untidy somehow and the eye is drawn to them.

So I removed them - just a bit of applique unpicked. I tried a wavy strip of applique instead...
basted ready to needle turn

I think I like that better. Am keeping that unpicker on standby though! 
So that is where I am up to now -  three more corners to add to the top.

Meanwhile the garden is calling. There has been a bit of tree trimming - just a few branches trimmed and 'dead headed'. These eucalypts are beautiful but huge, and prone to drop great branches without notice . 

It's still a bit chilly to sit out for long but there is much growing and flowering happening. 
Hellebores and rhododendrons
Bluebells leafing up everywhere
Have a lovely weekend