Friday, 18 September 2015

a very special visitor

Today we had a visit from an Australian native bird, a kookaburra. He (actually we don't know if it's a male) has been sitting on the fence for a few days, apparently waiting for us to feed him (look at that beak, he's a carnivore). Today he flew right up on to the balcony rail and stayed there for about twenty minutes -- long enough for me to phone DD and have the boys meet our visitor through the magic of the Internet.

You can see he wasn't at all fussed about how close we got to him either!

Kookaburras are related to kingfishers. We didn't have any meat in the house but we did have some raw/green prawns (shrimp). He didn't seem to like it much but eventually ate about half a prawn -- I hope it doesn't upset his digestion too much. Perhaps he will visit us again -- we'd better see if we can find some more curl grubs in our daily gardening sessions; what better use for these root eating pests than to feed them to a beautiful native?

Friday, 28 August 2015

still here, still stitching

I’m sure you quilters know that moment when you lose the love for a project. It’s when the end is almost within sight but there are still some hours to be put in. Well, at least that’s how it is for me.

Actually, I don’t feel like that very often – perhaps because my quilting is usually fairly straight-forward although, as you may have noticed, I am becoming more adventurous.

I still quilt the “old way” – I knot the strands on the back of the quilt and hide the ends in the wadding. My good friend, Cindy, who blogs at Delighted Hands, suggested I try taking small stitches at the beginning and end of each line of quilting and then cutting the threads. Well, I tried that method – I really did. I even tried it in class. My teacher and I discussed it and we tried three different methods but the stitching just pulled out! So I went back to the old way.

Now that is usually not too bad but this time I set myself a real challenge. My Wonky Quarter Log Cabin quilt is made up of twenty 12” blocks. I decided to accentuate the wonkiness by echo quilting around each block. That wasn't too bad – mostly I just had one pair of ends to sew in for each of the twenty blocks.

It took a while to decide on a way to quilt the blocks themselves and finally I settled on radiating lines, carefully avoiding the diagonal through the centre of the block so as not to draw attention to the fact that different width strings don't meet at the diagonal. I chose to do three radiating lines either side of the diagonal – that’s six lines for each block or twelve ends to be sewn in – for twenty blocks.
finished quilt detail finished quilt detail 2

The first two blocks took three hours to mark up and sew, and that didn’t include sewing the ends in. I still struggle to move a twin size quilt under my machine even though my machine has a 9” harp space. The weight of the quilt drags and catches and I am still learning how best to handle the quilt for the more intricate types of walking foot quilting I do (yes, walking foot – I don’t have a good grip on FMQ and am nowhere near ready to use it on my quilts).

I did get faster with each block but I still estimate that I spent about thirty hours quilting this project and sewing all those ends in. When I thought I was almost done and realised I was only 40% of the way through, having completed only eight blocks, I lost the love.

But, I am the kind of person who likes to finish what I start and today I sewed the label on that baby!

And, guess what? I found the love again. I really, really like the quilting; especially the way I’ve extended the radiating lines into the top and left side border – a stroke of inspiration.
finished quilt from front
As usual, the back includes my signature panel made up of “left over blocks” (I actually had to make the blocks for the back as DD and OG had only made nineteen of the twenty blocks needed for the front – see this post for the full story).
finished quilt from back
I’m linking this post with Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday which is being hosted at My Quilt Infatuation. Why not pop over there and see what other people have finished this week? Perhaps you also have something to contribute.

I’m hoping to be back soon to show you a couple of mum’s completed blankets but spring is just three days away and it’s very tempting to be out in the garden!

Until then, may your stitches bring you much joy.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

long ago and far away…

Actually, it wasn’t that long ago – only last month – and in terms of the whole world, not that far away – about 600km or 375 miles --

WM, Mum, MIL and I had a holiday/vacation in the seaside town of Woolgoolga on the north coast of New South Wales. We rented a three-bedroom house, facing north, overlooking the bay. For those of you who live in the northern hemisphere, this is the sun-catching direction. We had a 180° view of water. We were low enough to the ground and on the hill to be out of the cold, southerly sea breezes (and howling winds for one day). All in all, glorious scenery, almost perfect weather, and fabulous views.

You can see details of the house we rented here on Stayz. The photos are true to reality – the views, the house and the interior looked exactly like that (except the shower curtain in the bathroom had been replaced by a glass shower screen).

We woke early on the first morning, which happened to be WM’s birthday – we saw sunrise (it’s winter here so that was about 7am) and I saw my first whale of the season before 7am! From the front deck – without making the trek up to the whale watching headland and standing in the bitterly cold southerly winds.

We spent the days with DD, and the evenings with DD, SIL, and the two Grandsons. We celebrated WM’s birthday one Friday and Younger Grandson’s fourth birthday a week later. We watched whales migrating to the warmer waters of northern Australia for the winter from the deck and sometimes from the sun room. Older Grandson saw his first whale breech – what a great experience for a five year old! WM tried to take photos but mostly all he took were snaps of splashes – the movement had passed by the time he pressed the button! We had some lovely unexpected visitors and saw beautiful sunrises and sunsets – neither of which we can see from our home (due to other buildings and the mountain immediately to our west -- we live on the eastern slope).

Best of all, Older Grandson almost got the hang of knitting while Younger Grandson enjoyed trying and playing with yarn and needles (as it should be).

I won’t bore you with more words – please enjoy the photos taken from the first two days collection!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

there is work in progress

At Easter, DD and the family came to visit – it was so good to be able to spend time with them again; especially since DD and I got to spend some time together in the sewing room. Older Grandson helped to sort scraps and it wasn't long until he wanted to sew too. He loved sitting on my lap and feeding fabric in to the machine that was running on the slowest speed possible. At the end of the weekend, we had nineteen scrappy quarter-log cabin blocks of varying sizes made (they weren’t square and ranged in size from 9” to 11.5”). Unfortunately, I didn’t thing to take photos of the blocks that we made but I do have some photos of Older Grandson hard at work!
 2015-04-03 Ben sews on machine 2 2015-04-03 Ben sews on the machine 2015-04-03 Ben irons

In May, it was announced at our quilting group that there was going to be a log cabin challenge for all of us to use up scraps! Seems like I was already ahead of the game! LOL

I searched the internet for inspiration – I had absolutely no idea how to put those blocks together given their different sizes and shapes. But sometimes, I just have to be patient and let ideas percolate. In the end I decided to go with a wonky setting but I still had no idea how to go about it. I started looking at tutorials, but all the ones I found were for making sashing on all four sides of he block. I wanted to add sashing on only two sides. In the end, I found my own away to do it – the wider you cut the sashing and the more fabric you are prepared to ‘waste’, the better this works. Again, it didn’t occur to me to take photos of my work in progress – you can see how out of the habit of preparing for blog posts I have become!

Armed with twenty blocks (I made the extra one), I headed to class at my LQS. They have a design wall – I do not! My teacher, who loves traditional patterns and Civil War fabrics, is quite bemused by me sometimes, I think! Here I was with a totally radical modern approach to quilt blocks and I hadn’t even consulted a pattern! I did take a photo of my layout on the design wall but have since deleted in from my iPad – because I’ve finished the quilt top. Here it is for your enjoyment:
 finished front

I have also finished the backing.
finished back

The fabric used for the sashing and the backing is Saffron Craig’s Ginkgo Blossoms (c.2009). I used about three and half metres to make this quilt which will finish at 52” x 64” and is made up of twenty 12” blocks plus extra sashing down one side and across the bottom.
This one is basted and in the process of being quilted.

While I was on a roll, I made the backing for another quilt which I had finished in October last year.
on design wall

It is made from ‘Disappearing Nine Patch’ blocks with one modification – I made the neutral pieces of the nine patch smaller than the coloured parts; thus giving a thinner sashing than would otherwise be seen.
ready to cut and disappear

Here is the finished backing, containing my signature panel. the blue sashing gives a completely different look to the neutrals on the front! I have laid the blocks differently too – to form a type of ladder. The backing fabric is a small yellow check, not the solid it appears in the larger photo.
 finished back backing fabric
My sewing time is taken up with quilting the Wonky Log Cabin quilt; then I’ll get to the Scrappy Disappearing Nine Patch.

In the meantime, my knitting time is spent trying to catch up with my mum who is powering ahead knitting blanket strips. Come back for my next post and see another of her knitted blankets that I have finished.

I'm linking this post with WiP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced blog. Why not pop over and see what other crafters are up to?

May your stitches bring you much joy.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Violet & Friends and the Scrappy Churn Dash

No, it’s not the name of a new children's book or television program. The title is a combination of two of my finished quilts: “Violet & Friends” and “Scrappy Churn Dash” (see what a difference punctuation makes! LOL)

Violet and Friends was begun in 2011 when I first joined the Rainbow Scrap Challenge over at SoScrappy blog. It continued in 2012 as I made more blocks. Finally I had enough six-inch crumb blocks to make a quilt top in violet, orange, pink, yellow, teal and green. I shared a picture of the finished top and the backing panel (it’s my signature to use panels on the back of my quilts) in a post in February last year – obviously I can’t rush into finishing! LOL

This year, I seem to have caught some kind of ‘finishing bug’; instead of starting new projects (so easy to do), I’ve been finishing old ones. Perhaps having mum here is a reminder than one day I may not be able to quilt (or knit) – and I wouldn't want DD to inherit lots of unfinished projects. I inherited three knitting projects of mum’s – one I’ve ripped and re-purposed the yarn (into part of one of mum’s blankets); the other two I’m thinking I’ll turn into one blanket instead of the two that were originally intended.

At Easter, I chose a fabric for the backing and hey presto! A week later, Violet and Friends was finished: quilted, bound and labelled!
 finished quilt front  finished quilt back
The quilting was inspired by two classes I took on Craftsy: one was “Creative Quilting with your Walking Foot”, tutored by  Jacquie Gering; the other was “Dot to Dot Quilting” with Angela Waters. Angela’s class was basically about FMQ but I took her ideas and meshed them with Jacquie’s ideas and came up with my own walking foot diamonds (I tried FMQ but I can’t do it to my satisfaction – yet!).
 V&F custome quilting
It’s custom quilting and, in my opinion, looks great!

The other project in the title, Scrappy Churn Dash, was also started as a ‘Rainbow Scrap Challenge’ project. In January this year, the colour for the month was blue. I had always wanted to make churn dash blocks so made 4.5” squares for the centres. Then I chose a solid chocolate-brown (most people think it’s black) homespun for the churn dash – brown because it is a shade of orange, the complementary colour of blue, this given some warmth to what could have been a very cold-looking quilt. You can see the story of these blocks here in this post from January 2015.
 finished quilt front
I have several metres of one particular blue fabric so the choice for the backing was pretty easy. I only had to make my signature panel. What I had in mind was to ‘float’ churn dashes over the background but the fabrics I chose don’t stand out enough -- I probably should have gone for light colours rather than darks because this medium tone fabric is obviously darker than I think!
  finished quilt  back 
Anyway, the backing came together quickly and the quilting was done using my new quilting signature – diamonds! This involved more custom-quilting that took a very long time considering there are sixteen four inch squares, eighteen half squares, twelve diamonds, fourteen half diamonds, and four quarter diamonds that were all individually quilted. The only parts that aren’t quilted are the churn dash motifs themselves and the squares in the centre of each churn dash – my teacher and the owner of my LQS both agreed there was more than enough quilting on there to hold the layers in place! It is a donation quilt, after all, and my time is better spent making another quilt than in over-quilting!
BCCD custom quiltingBCCD custom quilting from back

My quilts measure about 52” by 64”, so there is quite a lot of turning of the quilt in the quilting process; just as well I bought a machine that has a largish throat! The downside of custom quilting, apart from having to turn the quilt a lot, is all the ends that have to be sewn in when the quilting’s done!
And before I go, I just have to show you my sunglasses case that I also finished in March
sunglasses case
and my zipper pouch with box corners that I finished in April.
lingerie zipper pouch lingerie zipper pouch inside and out   lingerie zipper pouch box corner

Putting a zipper in is not as difficult as I thought and I look forward to trying some more – I watched several tutorials and think I’ll try this one from Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilting Company next.

The sunglasses pouch was made from a tutorial by Gourmet Quilter. I’m not entirely happy with mine but I can see ways of improving on the next one!

After Scrappy Churn Dash was done, I took a few week’s break from quilting and patchwork to work on some family history but now I’m back in to the stitching groove and will be back soon to show you my works in progress. Look for that post next week; Thursday at the latest as I link up with WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced blog.

Until then, may your stitching bring you much joy.