The Wild Beast of Chiconia, and other tales

The poor Husband is going to come back to a nasty surprise today…

His normally sunny-tempered consort is grim-faced, bloody-fingered (from the pins) and her hair is standing on end.  The overall effect is rather like an irritated bear. It’s not a good look. And the reason for all this joy? The ongoing battle with The Quilt that Fought Back.

Some of the quilting completed in the bottom half of the quilt.

Some of the quilting completed in the
bottom half of the quilt.

Having said that, I’m making reasonable progress. The bottom half of the centre section is done. Perspective lines are in, the little cakes and mugs are outlined. You will definitely not be seeing any close-up brag shots of my immaculate stitches. Because they’re not. Immaculate, that is.  But the overall effect is pretty OK. The chief irritation relates to my new sewing table extension, a clear perspex platform on legs, which slides onto the sewing surface of the sewing machine, in order to give you a larger flat area to work with. This is a marvellous idea in theory, but unfortunately, the manufacturer has slightly changed the shape of the machines since I bought mine, with the result that the table doesn’t quite fit. It’s loose and there’s a gap. And every time I turn or adjust the quilt under the needle, the edges or pins or loose threads catch the edge of the extension and shift it. Again and again and again. I’m delicately refraining from sharing my true thoughts, and I’m pretty sure the language would get this post taken down right smart (considering it’s supposed to be family-friendly). Anyway, I have constructed an elaborate network of sticky tape which is holding it still for now. But I am very definitely in Wild Beast Growly mode for the moment.

In other news (I feel it’s time to move on…), the baby lime tree seems to be recovering from the trauma of the move into larger quarters. The two citrus trees were given a dose of Epsom salts and a large drink of diluted worm tea at the beginning of the week, and it seems to be paying off. The lime, particularly, had clear evidence in the leaves of magnesium deficiency, hence the Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) treatment. It has new flowers, and none of the baby fruit has dropped off.

New flowers and baby fruit

New flowers and baby fruit

I’ll have to thin those out shortly as there are far too many for the tree to sustain, but citrus trees always produce too many and the majority fall off. I’m also watching a couple of the branches, where leaves have fallen off wholesale at some point, but which appear to have some tiny buds on them. If I can avoid pruning them off, it would be good.

Leaves on the dead stick!

Leaves on the dead stick!

The frangipani (dead stick) is in leaf. It has taken a while and I was wondering if it truly was a dead stick, but the tiny little dark red points continued to sprout out of the branch ends, and are now opening into beautiful pointed oval leaves. The parent tree has gorgeous flowers: pink, with a golden heart. I think it’ll be a while before this one flowers, but I know what to look forward to.

My hippeastrums have also flowered profusely; the earliest is now dead or dying, but there are some beautiful flowers still. My difficulty is getting a good shot without a tripod, and even if I had one, getting it to stand still on the uneven bark chip surface. Anyway, look at this gorgeous girl:

Aten't I gorgeous?

Aten’t I gorgeous?

That’s the news from Chiconia. The Beast is soothed by a little light gardening, laundry and photography. The quilt is progressing, the Husband is on his way home, and things are definitely improving in my world. Bloody hot outside, though.

We’re off on a road trip tomorrow. Mackay to Childers, Childers to Coffs Harbour, Coffs Harbour to Dorrigo, and home again after a couple of days. We’re visiting friends, window shopping for a house as an investment property, and on the way home, going to the Craft & Quilt Fair in Brisbane. For those of you feeling sorry for the Husband, you should know that we have a reciprocal arrangement. We go to events he wants to attend, we go to events I want to attend. So far this year we’ve gone to a big truck show in Brisbane, and the World Rally Championship in NSW. Now it’s my turn, with the Quilt Show, and in November we’re going to a classical music concert in Brisbane (Last Night of the Proms – I used to love the Promenade Concerts in London, miss that here…). The lappie is coming along, so I’ll still be posting and checking, but I don’t think that quilting or the garden will feature much over the next week or so.  More soon…

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ST&D: postcard progress

It’s not done yet, but the hardest part is over.

I laid the design on my lightbox, and traced the outlines of the drawing onto fabric scraps, which I then cut out and arranged on a fabric backing, ensuring there was plenty of excess around the sides. I photographed this and made a large scale colour printout to help me with placement later. I inverted all the scraps and sprayed the pieces one by one with 505 basting spray in my hi-tech spray booth (aka a large old cardboard box with all the flaps taped out into a sort of tunnel; it keeps the stuff inside instead of all over my sewing room). I then placed them on the backing in the correct order, following the printout. A quick press with a hot iron under a sheet of baking paper to set the glue, and then I placed the fabric rectangle on a piece of tear-away stabiliser, with the stabiliser grain running horizontally, following the horizontal strips of fabric. This makes it easier to tear away afterwards. I basted the fabric and stabiliser together round the outside, and then I was good to go.

Sewing machines all differ with stitch lengths and widths. I did a small test piece on some scrap to see what gave me the best version of blanket stitch. I wanted the stitch that caught the edge of the fabric to be small, and the interval quite large, for minimal visibility. I also decided that life was too short to change the thread colour for every piece, so I selected a pale grey blue for all the stitching.

Once all the pieces were stitched down, I removed the basting and tore away as much stabiliser as I could before passing out with boredom deciding I’d removed enough. I clipped away as much of the fabric layers as I could get my small scissors into (I’ll probably be unable to resist having another go at it later!) and then gave the whole thing a good pressing. And there you have it. My Greetings from Tropical Queensland postcard front, good to go (apart from the embroidered message). The back is a piece of cake, and I’ll have a go at that tomorrow. I’ll show the finished thing when it’s done.

Once this first postcard block is done, I’ll make another and much simpler postcard front for my second block. I feel some hexies coming on, or possibly a scrappy block… I’ll probably also make the postcard front and back sit at different angles for a bit of interest.

Time for a cuppa and a well-earned piece of chocolate 🙂

 

ST&D: Postcard preparation

For those of you debating how to make your postcard block, here’s how I’ve made a start.

Initially, I thought about doing appliqué for the whole thing, but given the design for the postcard I’ve come up with, I can see there’ll be multiple, multiple layers which will need quilting through, so I’m reserving appliqué for the front of the postcard and the stamp on the back, and all the rest will be pieced. That being so, I feel I’ll achieve the tidiest result if I paper piece the appliqué sections into the background, which will avoid any nasty Y seams. The only thing is that I need to avoid a directional print for the background.

The image shows how I’ve drawn my design onto 12 inch quilter’s graph paper, and then divided the design up into sections A and B, numbering the piecing order. There are registration marks to help line up the two sections when the time comes. I’m going to take this plan and separate sections A and B, giving them both lots of seam allowance around the outside – at least an inch on the outside edges and half an inch at the join. This will hopefully ensure that the assembled block isn’t skimpy. You can always trim off, but not add back on, right? I’ve chosen fabrics that are mainly on the cool side of the spectrum to blend with the mainly teal colour scheme. The background will be cream with a very pale teal batik floral print, and the back of the card will be a mid-teal solid with a dark teal ‘stamp’. The lines on the back will be lines of machine stitching.

Given the slightly kitschy tropical beach scene on the front of the postcard (well, I do live in the tropics, near the beach, so why not?), I’ve gone for a message on the front of the card in the sort of font you see on the older type of postcard. If you want to incorporate a bit of embroidered text of some kind, there’s a website here where you can choose from a limited range of fonts and build a caption or a few lines of text. It’s free. I’d suggest you take note of where it tells you the finished letter height, so you don’t end up with text that’ll turn out an inch high, unless that’s what you want, of course! I haven’t yet decided what colour to do the embroidery. Bright pink’s a strong contender, though 🙂

I’m going to give my stamp a ‘perforated’ edge, like the real thing. Not so fine, of course, but this strip of cotton lace will do the job nicely. I love little details like that.

If this postcard works out well, I’ll try something completely different for the next one, perhaps an abstract splodge of colour like my ScrapHappy blocks, or hexies, or some really teeny weeny pieced blocks. It’s a small space, 7 x 5 inches, so why not go a little mad?

Watch this space for how I get on 🙂

SAL 52: Border country

What with all the hand quilting that’s been going on round here, I haven’t quite reached the bottom.

Here’s the Before shot, pre single-strand backstitching on the ‘lace’ strip at bottom right:

And here’s where we are now. The two short ‘lace’ border strips on either side finished, but I didn’t manage the narrow border across the bottom. However, as I’ve now finished my hand quilting marathon, hopefully I’ll do better next time, when I hope to have that extra border done, finishing off the bottom of this tiled section. Then it’s just the last bits of the outer borders to go!

As always, the SAL group is working on a wide and gorgeous variety of stitchery, so I urge you to go take a look at their work. We’re all over the world and in all different time zones, so if their SAL posts aren’t up yet, try again later. Here’s the list, and a big welcome to our newest member, Jackie.

AvisClaireGunCaroleLucyAnn, JessSue,
ConstanzeDebbieroseChristinaKathyMargaret,
CindyHelenStephLindaCatherineMary Margaret,
Timothy, Heidi, Connie, Jackie

See you next time, on 8th October.

ScrapHappy September

I can’t believe how quickly this has come round again!

Once again, it’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host  ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

This month, I’ve been digging for my pastel scraps in the teal and pink boxes, and I like the results! They’ll contrast nicely with the strong-colour blocks, but they still mop up those scraps really well. Next month, I think I’ll try for red and green.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps – no new fabrics. It can be a random or formal quilt block, a pillow or pincushion, a bag or hat, a collage or rag rug. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? You can either email me at the address shown on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. You don’t have to worry about a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at):

Usually has a scrappy post:

Gun at https://rutigt.wordpress.com (in Swedish and English)
Titti at http://tittisquiltlek.blogspot.se (in Swedish only)
Heléne at http://quiltochsom.blogspot.se (in Swedish only)

Sometimes has a scrappy post:

Eva at bambisyr-evaj.blogspot.com (in Swedish only)
Sue at sewingmagpie.blogspot.com (in English only)
Nanette at http://stitchandsow-homeandgarden.blogspot.com.au (in English only)
Lynn at https://thetialys.wordpress.com (in English only)
Norma at https://shesewsyouknow.wordpress.com (in English only)
Lynda at: https://pixilatedtoo.wordpress.com (in English only)
Birthe: http://birthesrom.blogspot.no (in Norwegian only)
Turid: http://densyendehimmel.blogspot.se (in English and Norwegian)
Susan: https://desertskyquilts.wordpress.com/ (in English only)
Cathy: http://nanacathydotcom.wordpress.com (in English only)
Debbierose: https://sewrosey.wordpress.com (in English only)
Tracy: https://itsatsweetsday.wordpress.com/ (in English only)
Jill: http://nicepieceofwork.wordpress.com/ (in English only)
Claire: https://knitnkwilt.wordpress.com/ (in English only)
Jan: http://thesnailofhappiness.com/ (in English only)
Karen: https://mewithptsd.wordpress.com/ (in English only)
Moira: http://quiltedsnail.blogspot.com/ (in English only)
Sandra: https://daffodilwild.wordpress.com/ (in English only)
Linda: http://kokaquilts.blogspot.co.nz/ (in English only)

See you again, same time next month!

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook: Viv’s page

When the idea of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook was first proposed, Viv was one of the first to jump on board with gusto.

Before the Sketchbook reached her, however, we lost her in July 2016. This was a great sadness on two counts; first for those who loved her and miss her still, and secondly because the Sketchbook also needs words as well as the beautiful images which have been contributed. Viv’s great skill was with words, and the lack of her contribution left something of a void.

Viv’s daughter Sally has kindly consented to allow us to feature one of Viv’s poems to amend this lack. The piece which has been selected is called ‘Conjunctions’, and discusses the importance of building and maintaining the connections between us, a sentiment particularly appropriate for the far-flung Sisterhood.

I was asked to letter and insert Viv’s poem.   I have done this in a connected way, with each verse linked to the next with paper and thread. I thought about adding some pieces of patchwork, another of Viv’s passions, but ultimately felt that her words were splendid as they stood, and needed no other adornment or distraction. I’m happy with the simplicity of the execution.

You can see my own page about the Sketchbook project by clicking the link at the start of this post. Alternatively, go to the blog created for this project by Sandra, for a different perspective.

So, I give you Viv’s contribution. She’s with us after all…

ST&D: Some clarification

Hello, wonderful Ovarian Cancer Quiltmakers.

Some of you made an early start with Signed, Tealed & Delivered (ST&D) and have highlighted something that’s not clear – thank you for the heads-up, and here’s an explanation.

If you print out the 4 pieces of the paper pattern for the envelope block created by The Littlest Thistle and join it together, it’s all in one piece. However, it needs to be separated into two parts to work. The photo below shows how you should reassemble the paper pattern to make things easy. The numbers showing the order of assembly are then much easier to understand.

If you print the pattern twice (at 100%, don’t forget, not to scale), you should have enough spare parts to create the full pieces in both sections. If you click on the image above, you’ll see where I have stuck pieces together with a glue stick. Remember to allow a seam allowance to join the top section to the bottom.

Another question I’ve been asked is whether the envelopes have to be plain and light coloured. The answer is no. If you want to make the envelope dark and the lining light, then do. If you want to make the background dark and the envelope light, feel free. All you need to do is ensure there’s some contrast. The envelope can be patterned or plain, same for the background and envelope lining. Have fun!

In the next few days I’ll be making my first postcard block and will post it so you can see the sort of thing I intend for it. I’ll be making an appliqué version, but if you want to piece them that’ll be fine too.

Have a great weekend, y’all.

 

Sea Glass #15. All done

This has been one of my favourites.

I can’t really explain why. A combination of colours I love, a simple but effective pattern, improvement in my appliqué skills, lovely texture, a big improvement in my hand quilting skills, and no deadline.

And now it’s done. Bound, labelled, washed gently in wool wash with a couple of colour catchers to get rid of the marker, and then tumble dried. Puffy and soft. Ready to go to its new home. You guys were right, that purple batik was perfect as binding and I still have at least 30cm of the full WOF left.

So, what shall I do next? Quilt another handful of Hatbox blocks? Make a couple of envelope blocks for ST&D? Make a scrappy block for ScrapHappy? Nah. I need a tiny vacation. Like, maybe… a day or so?

Think I’ll stop and sit a while before I get the next job out. This calls for chocolate.

Sea Glass #14: Time for a new needle

… and new fingers and a new template.

It’s done. The hand quilting on Sea Glass is complete. I’m actually quite shocked at how quickly it went, but I suppose each time I do hand quilt a large project I’ve learned from the previous ones, and I instinctively know how to make a quilter’s knot and bury the end of the thread, and how much thread to load on the needle and what length it’ll cover, and so on. It helps also to have a large space to lay the quilt out on and be able to leave it undisturbed (hello again, dining table!).

I’ve used a nice thick cotton batting so there’s a good puffy loft to the quilt. One thing I’ve learned and will pass on to you to save you grief: do not use a white-on-white print for your backing. Sure, it looks lovely, but the over-printing is thicker than average to make it visible, and the thickness of the ink is hard to push the needle through. I worked that one out about 10 minutes into the quilting process…

The paper template was easy to make once I’d worked out that making the slots by poking through with the blade of small sharp scissors instead of laboriously cutting them with a scalpel was infinitely quicker. It was easy to use; I just marked through the holes with a white ceramic mechanical pencil designed for quilters, and literally joined the dots. The marker rubs off with an eraser or washes out, as does the thin lead pencil marks I used on the lighter fabrics. The template’s completely stuffed now, as is my needle. It’s a big old heavy quilt, there’s a lot of fine weave batiks, for which I like a fine quilting needle, so a bit of bending was almost inevitable.

Finally, I’ve bought my binding fabric. Strictly between us, I’ve bought a bit more than I really need, because I like the fabric so much… It’s another batik, very pretty shades of amethyst, and I think it’ll look lovely edging that greeny-tealy-bluey border fabric. So, tomorrow’s trim out day, followed by cutting and joining the binding strip, and depending on my time and energy, perhaps even machine stitching the binding on the front face. Hand stitching down the binding on the back will definitely have to wait till my hands have had a rest.

Now, time for a little glass of something to celebrate.

Sea Glass #13: breaking the border

It sounds so much worse, “over 2,300 square inches still to be quilted”.

But of course, if you break it down into sections, everything is suddenly much easier. Each of the Sea Glass borders consists of 2 sixteen patch corner posts, 8 inches square, a centre post the same size, and two long strips in between. Eight squares, eight long strips. I like those numbers much better.

So if you quilt three squares and two long strips, you’ve done just over a quarter of the border. Sounds a lot better like that, doesn’t it? Or is that just me? It certainly seemed to work in practice too.

I have two of the three sides done already. Three more days will hopefully see it done, and then I can start thinking about the binding. You know, the fun stuff: what colour, 2½ inch or 2¼ inch binding strips, sewing on the strips, and then my very favouritest part. The hand stitching. No, actually, I’m not in the least bonkers. I love hand stitching – or why else would I have just hand quilted 6,400² inches of quilt? (More of those scary numbers…) Most of the time I have a deadline and cannot afford the luxury of leisurely and lengthy stitching, but this quilt doesn’t have a due date, so I can indulge myself.

You know what? I didn’t draw blood from my sewing thumb or middle finger once, a bit of a record. Normally I drive the eye end of the needle into one and/or the other multiple times when I hit a bit with lots of seams. Of course, I don’t count the needle sticks in the underneath hand… They’re almost obligatory for hand quilters, but you do have to watch out for blood spots, or as I prefer to call it, DNA quilt marking.

So, two more sides to go, and the more I do, the faster I quilt. The template I made will be well and truly knackered by that time, it’s only paper with punched slots for marking through, but so long as it holds out till the end I’m not worried. And it’d be great if the white ceramic leads for my quilt marker would last till then too, but I’m not 100% confident of that.

Time to turn the quilt and start the next side.