Monday, December 29, 2008

Why I was getting stuck.

One of the reasons that I had almost given up on getting my quilt finished is that it is a BIG quilt. I am making it, primarily, for my bed and I want it to be 2.4m by 2.4m. So the sheer size of the project become somewhat daunting. The other problem was that I don't (didn't) have a design wall big enough to work vertically. I actually don't have a wall big enough to put that size design wall onto. However, I have found a solution. It just took a while to get there.

I bought 2 pieces of soft board.* They measure 1.2m by 2.7 m. I had to cut them down a bit. Most modern houses have a 2.4m stud. My house in from 1937 and has a 2.7m stud. So 2.7 m long soft board would have been a bit of a squeeze. I cut them down to 2.5m. I thought I would lean the 2 sheets vertically against the cupboard opening where I store my fabric. The problem was that the stuff bends very easily and one sheet was bending more than the other. After a few days of struggling to work on it I finally went to Mitre 10 yesterday and bought 6 pieces of aluminium edging which just slides onto the edges. One goes on each long side of the 2 boards and takes care of the curvature problem (I wish my curvature problem was so easy to fix!) The other 2 go on the short sides at the top and bottom and temporarily join the 2 boards together. Wahoo, a flat surface I can work with.

Of course I can't easily get into my fabric cupboard while it is up, but it is possible to slide the whole thing far enough out of the way to get to that elusive piece of fabric I absolutely must have for the quilt I'm working on :-) I now have a wall that measures 2.4m wide by 2.5m high. I can take it down and store it when I am not working on a large quilt. Now I can give you an idea of the scale I am working on:
Lots to do, huh? I'm not going to make the sashing pieces all the same colour, it would overwhelm the blocks. Another reason for needing a big design wall. It is much easier to choose colour and value when I am looking at it in a vertical plane. Back to the sewing . . .

* This is a whole 'nother story! We used to be able to get a product called flameguard - which we used to call pinex many years ago. At the beginning of this year it was priced at about $25 per sheet of 1.2m by 2.4m, a very reasonable cost. I encouraged my quilting friends to buy some, which they did. When I decided to get some more guess what? They don't make it any more, grrr..., and the replacement softboard is over $55 per sheet, grrr..., grrr... ! I wasn't going to pay that much when I needed 2 of them. so I went to Bunnings. They had some older softboard that was painted black on one side. It was $26 per sheet. But since they were wanting to get rid of it they gave me 2 sheets for $30. Must have been my lucky day. Just as well, really. It cost me $42 for flannel to cover the boards (no fluffy sheets in the shops in summer, ask me how I know!) and the aluminium edging was $15 per two metre length, and I got 6 of them. Sheesh!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'll Get By With A Little Help . . .

. . . from my friends. When I told them I had given up on getting my quilt finished before the deadline my good friend Jo protested and suggested I needed a timetable. So she typed one up on the computer for me (the picture should be click-able):
So far, I have managed to tick off the first day! Yippee, all the hand applique is done. But I have done some work towards getting the sashings done. I'm just not sure I have done enough to cross off the second day :-)

Now I look closely at the time table, Jo has put Saturday at the start of the week and it is now Sunday, so I am already 2 days behind. Yikes!

Thanks to those who have left encouraging comments. I try to reply to all comments by email but Nola and Karen have their settings as 'non-reply'. But thanks any way for taking the time to leave a comment.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Well, this is where I got stuck with my quilt. The sashings are pieced and I am not happy with the light/medium/dark values. I don't know which way to go. The first or the second? Or some other combination?

Or maybe this way out combination?
(Just kidding)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Slow Progress

This is one of the applique blocks that I have been working on over the last few months. The challenge for me was to design something original and I was hoping to have this quilt finished in time to enter for Symposium but this is not going to happen! Entries are due in by 14 January and my quilt top is still in pieces, some of which haven't even been pieced yet, let alone getting it basted and quilted in the next 3 weeks! (drat - I won't be winning Best of Show for a while, will I?) There are 25 of these, all in different fabric, and I still have 5 to finish off. Then they are surrounded by a pieced sashing which I am having difficulty getting the colour values right for and I have done only about 10% of what I need to have done. Oh, well there is always next time.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Requiem for a Singer

My trusty old 1963 khaki Singer blew a 'foo foo valve' the other night - literally. I was merrily quilting along on a hearts of hope quilt, which a group of ladies has put together for one of their very dear friends and I offered to quilt for them, when my machine blew up. I knew the old rubber coated wiring was in dodgy condition, I just didn't realise that the condition was perilous. When the cord connecting the light to the electric motor blew it set the quilt on fire. 'H*** sh**' was the expletive deleted as I jumped and then saw flames! Frantic patting of the area with my quilting gloves!
Fortunately it was the very edge of the quilt, the batting was 100% cotton and therefore didn't melt, and the worst affected part will be cut off when the binding is attached.
But a tiny part of the scorch mark on the back of the quilt will not be covered by the binding.

As for the Singer? It is off to my very friendly sewing machine mechanic to be fixed. I love quilting with this machine. There is so much more room under the arm of the machine than my Elna. Why do they make modern machines with such a small harp? Why can't they make a basic low to mid price range machine that has more room?? I know there is a brand new Bernina with 12" harp coming out here in NZ next year. But I am positive it will be way out of my budget. I don't want all the fancy embroidery stitches. Just the basic features we have come to know and love like needle up/needle down, thread cutter, and the walking foot, free motion foot and 1/4" foot included as standard, not optional extras!

Oh, that's right, the Juki 98!

Here in New Zealand we can get this supplied with a very easy to use frame as well. My friend Janice has one. I want one! I just need to save some money. That is going to be a bit harder to do for a while. He, of Honey Bunch fame, is off to University next year. We do not qualify for any student allowances and the amount he can borrow on the student loan is not enough to cover the cost of his halls accommodation. He does have a holiday job but it will not be enough to totally cover the extra so it is mum to the rescue (but only while he continues to pass his courses!!).

Oh well, one day Roger Rabbit, one day!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What I did this weekend ...

... was to travel on an 800km round road trip to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday. I'm rather tired but also wired. Which is why I am on the 'puter when I should be in zzzzzz land. I gave my mother a quilt which I called "Where on earth is Bettina Monica Nesta?" Those are mum's names and she hates very one of them. She is called Betty which is usually a diminuituve of Elizabeth. But I think she was called Betty even before she was born. I remember as a child her telling me that her older sisters thought her mum had a baby doll just for them! It is a scrap quilt (and I don't think I have a picture of it) I made a couple of years ago. I named if after Mum because it had a tiny piece of fabric with an old lady motif on it.

This is mum and my stepfather Bert. I am thankful that they are well (relatively speaking for their age) and their minds are fully functioning.

My parents split up when I was 18 and Mum has been married to Bert for almost as long as she was married to my Dad. Amazing huh?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Getting organised

One of my quilting students is starting a new quilt using a lot of fabrics of the same colour family. When I asked her how she was going to remember which fabric is which she showed me these plastic zip bags with a pocket on the front. She has printed out all the colours and numbered them and has cut each one out and put in the pocket window. When she cuts each piece of fabric she is going to put it back in the correct bag.

I thought it was a brilliant way of keeping things organised. I suggested she stick a piece of masking tape to the end of each piece of fabric and number it as well, so that if things get mixed up she has the actual fabric labelled as well as the pocket. Of course she will have to be careful to cut the fabric from the other end to the label :-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

A bit of applique

It has been very slow going and I am still not even halfway through the hand applique blocks that I am doing for the quilt which I hope to finish in time to enter Symposium. Every week I promise myself I will do some every day. Mmmm.... Oh well, the school holidays are coming up in a few weeks and I'll get it done then. But that's what I said to myself before the last lot. Who am I kidding??

Here is a little bit of a preview:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another Invasion!!!

This time of an extremely welcome sort - visiting quilters from England! I got a phone call last Friday from a lady called Pat who is visiting Wanganui with the Friendship Force group. She had visited the local patchwork shop and asked if there is a quilting group in Wanganui. The shop gave her my number and she called to ask if she and some of the quilting ladies from the tour group could come and visit after dinner on Sunday evening to talk patchwork and quilting. Of course, I said yes.We have just finished a delightful hour and a half getting to know each other and I now have new friends from the other side of the world and an invitation to visit the Isle of Wight - as long as I plan my visit around the second Thursday of the month which is when their guild meeting is held :-)

All I have to do now is win Lotto!
Along with Pat came her sister Sue and friend Nava all from the Isle of Wight, and Joy from Southampton. I have to confess I didn't get the fourth lady's name so I am expecting (hoping!) Pat to read this blog post at some time when she gets back home and let me know.


The missing name is Sue L. She is new to quilting and doesn't belong to any group. I hope she was inspired by what she saw at my place.

I am hoping to meet Nava again next weekend. I am going to Calico Christmas, the Auckland Patchwork and Quilters' annual show, and Nava is expecting to be there too. We have made a loose arrangement to meet for lunch. I am so looking forward to this!

And, yes, I know it is almost 2 months since I have posted. Life has been in the fast lane lately. I have hardly got near the computer andI have 2798 blog posts to read - ahem!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My new best friends . .

. . . are this dinky pair of curved embroidery scissors, a can of spray starch and some bee-ooo-ti-ful YLI #100 silk thread:
Yes, I've started some hand applique. I'm onto a new project which I aim to get finished before 14th January, 2009, in time for the entry deadline of our next National Symposium. I was halfway on the way to sewing a pattern I bought a year ago which I thought I might enter. It was for a lovely wall hanging and I had decided to enlarge it to queen bed size and make a new quilt to use on my bed. Then I read the entry rules which state entries have to be original designs. Jam on the brakes and come to a screaming halt! It took me a some time to get over the 'oh darn, I'm not going to have enough time to make this plus another quilt' feeling and come around to the idea of putting aside the first quilt and make up my own design. Which I have and it has some applique. Normally I would fuse this, but I don't like raw edge on my bed quilts (O, la di dah, doesn't that sound snobby? Like I've got a huge stash of bed quilts to ring the changes with - not!)

The scissors I picked up on a sales table earlier this year, thinking 'I've always wanted a pair of these curved scissors'. I was delighted to find that the price was further reduced when I went to pay for them. The spray starch is for ironing the edge over the freezer paper. It smells like home baked biscuits around here at the moment, I'm using so much of it. I'm not normally known for my hand stitching skills. In fact I was told very clearly (grin) the stitches on my test piece were way too big, hence the silk thread. Which is wonderful to stitch with. The thread just disappears and I can get really, really tiny stitches. Of course I know really, really tiny stitches are the aim here, but how come no one ever tells you in the quilting books and magazines that the tinier the stitches, the more of them there has to be?? And the more of them there has to be, the longer it takes to stitch something down?? Huh! What was that deadline?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Unwelcome Visitors

WARNING: This post has no pictorial content.

I live in a 70 year old house and old houses, being as they are, are prone to invasions of certain kinds of pests. In the last week I have trapped and disposed of the remains of eight (yes, 8!) furry little rodents that decided to make their home underneath my kitchen sink. There is a wonderful mouse trap available called the 'Better Mouse Trap'. It is a gray plastic trap that works a bit like a spring loaded bulldog clip. The great thing about it is that when the mouse is trapped the head can't be seen - wonderful for the slightly squeamish like me. Don't, however, make the mistake I did. After hearing the trap spring I suggest you wait a decent interval before opening the cupboard door before disposing of the contents of the trap. You want to give enough time for the poor thing to be properly dead and not wriggling its little legs!

PS: This post had no quilting content either :-)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Wee Bag

For those of you who know me, you will understand that I don't 'do' bags. I don't mind making the odd one to put a quilt in for an exhibition, but as far as handbags go I buy a black one, put everything in it, and I use it until it wears out. Then I replace it with a new one. I don't change my bag to go with my outfit (I don't 'do' outfits either, but that is another story - vbg). So it was with some surprise that I found myself making a bag the other night. The teacher of Japanese from my school wanted to make a bag like one she had seen in a magazine but there was no pattern. Yours truly volunteered to draw up a pattern to make something similar. After a test run using left over scrap homespun this is the result:

It is not exactly like the original. The bottom is curved instead of having what looks like a gusset insert in the bottom and the handles are wider and not as long, but I'm pretty happy with the result. I love the fabric I used; chocolate, pink and lime green - what a funky combination! In fact it would look really good in a quilt, wouldn't it? Of course it will have to be a much smaller quilt now, since I now have less of the fabric than I started with. But hey, it's not like I don't have plenty of other fabric to quilt with!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Night Metropolis

I tried to make this post last week but my internet connection and/or blogger was not playing nice. After waiting for ages I lost the post completely. Who knows why these things happen? I gave up and went to bed instead.
I've put the last stitches in the binding of "Night Metropolis" - apart from a label. I hope the picture is clickable so you get a better view. I quilted the 'windows' on Janice's Swiftquilter. I was pretty impressed with how straight I got the freehand stitching:
Bur I have to confess I was going to quilt the grey' window ledge' as well but it didn't go so well so I stopped and ripped out what I had done. Stitching lines on a 45 degree angle was much harder than going up and down. I did the 'in the ditch' quilting on my own machine after I did the windows. I found it too hard to keep the stitching next to the seam line on the Swiftquilter. After that I decided it didn't need any more quilting :-) Considering that I used scrap batting the quilt hangs reasonably straight.

I am impressing myself that this quilt has taken only a couple of months to finish. It is growing on me. I'm feeling an urge to make another one. I bet my scrap pile still won't look any smaller!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Japanese Tailors' Knot

While Ayumi was with me she taught me the way Japanese tailors tie new thread onto the end of the nearly used-up old thread. This is so as little thread as possible is wasted. The knot ends up against the fabric so you can continue to hand sew without having to pull the knot through any fabric. I have never seen this done before and Ayumi was very pleased to be able to teach it to me. Her grandmother taught it to her and because her grandmother has passed away, it was a special thing for her to be able to pass that skill onto me. I asked Ayumi if I could photograph the steps so I could remember. To make it stand out in the pictures we used two different coloured wools and a scrap of fabric. I hope you get the idea.

After sewing 2 stitches in the same place, the used up thread goes out to the left . .
. . . and is held in the left hand. The new length of thread (black) is place under the old thread:
The new thread goes around over the left thumb and under the tail of the new thread (but over the tail of the old thread):
Hold everything between the finger and thumb:
Grab the tail of the old thread and poke it through the loop of the new thread:
Hold both tails in the right hand and . . .
. . . drop the loop of the left thumb and hold both tails in your left hand:
Pull on the old thread to get the loop down onto the fabric:
Hold the loop with your left forefinger:
And pull on the new thread:
Make sure the knot is lying against the fabric:
Now thread your needle with the other end of the new thread and continue sewing with the new thread.

Thank you Ayumi for teaching me this. You have beautiful hands!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A visitor from Japan

It has been a busy month since I last posted (no excuse, I know). It was particularly busy for the last 2 weeks as I have been hosting a teacher from Japan. Ayumi teaches English to her Junior High School students in Toyooka. She came on a school trip with 11 of her students for 10 days. The students were billeted with some of our students who study Japanese and I had the pleasure of having Ayumi stay at my place.

Ayumi has never done quilting before so I showed her some of my fabric stash and let her choose some to make a small wall quilt. We got some of the cutting out and sewing done that night. It had to be a fairly simple pattern given the time available. The next day was club day which gave her another opportunity to get some more sewing done. Here she is using the rotary cutter like a professional:
One of our members showed Ayumi how to attach the binding:
And a few days later the quilt was finished:
Pink is Ayumi's favourite colour!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bicycle Clips

Being a Gadget Girl I have, among a zillion other quilting gadgets, a set of bicycle-type clips for securing a rolled quilt when quilting on a domestic machine. I have to say I have not found them that useful and I usually scrunch the quilt up while I am quilting. Last week I was able to use Janice's Swiftquilter and Juki to quilt my "Night Metropolis" quilt. The Swiftquilter does not have a fourth roller for the batting and at the beginning of the quilting process the excess hangs on the ground. I had a bright idea! Roll it up over a spare curtain rood and secure it with the bicycle clips. It worked pretty good:
Yes, I confess, that batting is leftover pieces sewn together. Yes, I joined the pieces with the sewing machine. Yes, I realise the quilt may not be all that flat (in fact I will be very surprised if if is flat). Well, it is a scrap quilt!

I am heading out to Janice's again tomorrow to finish off the quilting on "Night Metropolis". I think I've got carried away with the amount of quilting on it. I've done all the 'windows' and I need to go back and quilt the 'attic' frame part. I'd better head off to bed early then. What? It's 11.41 pm already? Oh well, at least I still have one week of holidays to go :-)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

See what I mean?

I made a few of these string blocks a while back (like about over a year ago - see April 13 post. One day when I am not too tired I'll learn how to do that link thingy with the time stamp)
I have finally got around to trimming them all and here they are, up all stacked up and ready to go:
Guess what?
More scraps!

See what I mean?

I was really, really strong, I moved them from the cutting table to a plastic bag. The plastic bag hasn't made it to the bin yet, but it's a start, right? I haven't yet retrieved a single piece - emphasis on yet :-)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Scrap Useage

I have started to make inroads on the scrap collection. I've made this quilt top using crumb blocks which I cut to 4 1/2" and put in an attic window setting:
The quilt is quite large, 1.5 metres by 2 metres, and has 140 blocks (10 blocks by 14). I'm calling it "Night Metropolis". It is school holidays right now and I am going out to my good friend Janice's tomorrow. I will start quilting it on her Juki and Swiftquilter. I had better have a good think about how I want to quilt it in the next 12 hours.

I found the crumb blocks really relaxing to make and quite addictive. Sadly, the scrap collection doesn't look any smaller! I think I've got enough scraps to make about a million crumb blocks.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Drowning in Scraps

I guess I am no different from most quilters, I have HEAPS of scraps. This is my scrap corner:
Everything you see here is scraps. Everything on the shelves are scraps, in the white plastic ice cream containers, in the orange photocopy paper box lids, in the boxes on the floor. They have been starting to overwhelm me. I cannot bring myself to throw any of them out. I hear my father's voice echoing in my head "waste not, want not". I have been keeping pieces as little as 1" by 1/2" for goodness sake! One of my friends says I have 'scrap-a-philia' and I need therapy. Another asked one of her on-line groups what they did with their scraps. Thankfully (for me), of everyone who replied, only one threw out her scraps. the others are like me, they keep them. It is reassuring to know I am not alone :-)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Honey Bunch Hair

He, of Honey Bunch fame, isn't too fussed about having his hair cut. I think he last had it cut at least 6 months ago, maybe even 9 months. Last week the back view looked like this:
I have fine, straight, brown (well, it used to be brown) hair. I would have given an arm and a leg to have hair like this. How did my child end up with thick, curly, blonde hair? (I blame his dad, who had flaming red hair as a child)

It is such a shame we can't inherit our kids genes.

Alas, the hair is gone. Mowed down by a 'number3' head shave. I suppose it will be back in 6 or 9 months or so.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I didn't even break the needle!

I was busy sewing the binding onto a quilt the other day. I don't pin the binding on, I just line it up as I sew and do the continuous corner thingy. As I was sewing along I felt a 'bump'. Hmmm I thought, what was that? Well, this is what 'it' was. I has sewn straight over a safety pin which was close to the edge of the quilt- and I didn't even break the needle! Clever me! I thought I had taken out all the pins but there was still one left (well - obviously.)

This is what it looks like with the binding folded away from the top of the quilt:
This is what it looks like with the binding folded back up:
I took these two photos at the same time. I don't know why the colours are so different. I'm such a total klutz at photos. The second photo is more true to life colour.

Now all I have to do is unpick it! It has been sitting, looking at me for a week. I have hand sewn the binding down around 3/4 of the quilt. I feel kind of reluctant to undo my really clever achievement :-)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Avoidance Behaviour

I really should be writing my reports which are due in on Thursday, but somehow I couldn't resist joining my strip sets together. The result was too short for a bed quilt so I made two more sets, one for the top and one for the bottom. You can only see the top half of the top. It is about 2 metres long and only about 1.2m wide, so I am going to add really wide strips to the sides to make it wide enough for a single bed.* The sashing strips are a Christmas fabric I had 3 metres of (What was I thinking? Oh, that's right, long strips use up a heap of fabric, just as well I had 3 metres, eh?) Actually it is a nicer shade of green that in the photo.

*Confession time, I did have strips on the side the same width as the sashings but because it still wasn't wide enough I ripped them off last night while Frances and I watched a couple of episodes of Antiques Roadshow. I'll use them for the binding.

Oh, well, back to the reports . . .

Saturday, May 17, 2008

And then I got carried away . . .

. . . making more strip sets. These ones are from pieces I got in some grab bags from Grandmother's Garden a few years ago. They are the selvage off cuts from 5" strips of fabric which they use to make 5" square fabric packs, so the length of each one was 5" (more or less, interestingly some weren't exactly 5") The widths of the strips varied depending on the width of the original fabric. I still find it amazing that quilt fabric is not a standard width and can vary by as much as 2"-3".
Mmmm.... there is enough here for a 'Chinese Coins' strip quilt, and it hasn't made one smidgeon of difference to the size of my scrap pile!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Stress-free Stitching

I have a lot of things I could be sewing but at the moment I'm trying to bring some order to my rather large collection of scraps which are dotted all over the place. So it has been tidying rather than creating, but the problem is when I pull out a container to sort through I find something that says "It just needs this and then it can be used for" to me. Shortish lengths of about 1 1/2" wide fabric scraps just needed to be made into this border (untrimmed as yet!) for a scrap quilt.

It is very relaxing not worrying about what goes with what, very stress-free stitching. I'll add it to my orphan block collection and someday it will find its way into a community quilt.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

In New Zealand We Call It Tinny. . .

. . . when things are lucky or work out just right, and so it was for the latest rookie quilt I have made for my beginner lessons. I had just a tad over the right amount of binding to overlap to do the diagonal join. The border fabric is quilte busy so I decided to join all the off cuts to use for the binding. I did a rough measure and this is how much overlap I had. Just right for trimming to the 2 1/2 inches overlap required for 2 1/2 inch double-fold binding.

This is the finished piece. I've called it 'A Touch of France' because of the colours used. It measures about 74 cm by 80 cm.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My old coffee table . . .

. . . is now my new ironing board! Last year I went on a quilt retreat to Karen Bird's at Kimbolton and was very impressed by her very large chest freezer being put to good use as a large ironing surface. Way better than my normal ironing board, an old Suzy brand which is great for clothes but fabric has a tendency to slide off the pointy end. I hardly ever iron clothes. I subscribe to the 'if it needs ironing don't buy it' philosophy of clothing purchases. I'd rather be quilting!

I thought you might like to see how I made my new 'ironing centre". First I pinched a chest of drawers from my spare room. I had these drawers for my clothes when I was a kid, so that makes them 'almost antique'. Funny how they look quite modern even though they are over 40 years old.

The drawers have proved to be a very useful storage space for reels of thread and rolls of fusible webbing, baking paper, lunch paper for tracing, Glad Press 'n' Seal which is now available in New Zealand supermarkets. (when is the freezer paper arriving?)

The old coffee table minus its legs, which were broken from teenage boys standing on the table(!!), sits on the top. I haven't fixed it in place yet so leaning heavily on one end will result in a bit of a surprise.
I covered it first with a layer of thermaldrape lining
Then 2 layers of wool flannel. This is the type that used to be used for babies overnaps. I bought some when 'he of honey bunch fame' was little and never got around to making them. I did use cloth nappies with cloth liners though and I had a few pairs of hand knitted 'bunnies", as the overnaps were called, given to me which I used. So it didn't really matter that I never got around to sewing overnaps using the wool flannel. Much better to use it for padding on the ironing surface :-)
Then a cover of cotton decorator fabric. This is an old Laura Ashley fabric.
The iron cord sits nicely into a holder that came with a second hand ironing board I bought a few years ago so I would have a second iron and board. It holds the cord out of the way and when I unplus I don't have to drop any cords on the fl00r. Saves all that 'using your back like a crane' bending down when plugging and unplugging
Not quite as large as the 'big boards' from USA, but pretty useful all the same.