Anemone: 7 rows done

It may be time for a day off.

Not because I’m bored, or not enjoying this, but because I need to let my fingers heal. The calluses haven’t re-formed yet, and the needle sticks have become small but painful wounds due to the repeated damage in the same place. I’ve anointed them with spray bandage to keep them closed, since the stick-on kind is a pain in the backside on the tips of fingers. It may be enough to let me carry on working, but somehow I think it may be time to give my body a chance to heal itself without interference.

This is what most people would call big-stitch quilting. I do want to finish it this side of Christmas, which is why I’m not going for smaller stitches. Life is just too short, and I do very much like the soft texture I get with this clamshell shape and size of quilting. I also like the pink thread; it was a toss up whether I’d use white, grey or pink, but I’m happy with the decision to with colour – of course!

I’ve calculated this quilt is going to need at least 50 rows of clamshell stitching. I’m 7 rows down, so making decent progress. I haven’t quite got to the quilt-like-a-machine stage where I load x needles with x length of thread at the start of each row, but by row 20 I’ll probably be there… Making exactly the right size of knot at the start of each thread so that it’s still small enough to bury but too large to pull out, and the trick of forming and pulling down the knot to bury at the end of each thread is a skill you don’t forget after your first queen-sized hand quilted project!

Now let’s see if I can resist Anemone’s siren call….


Worldwide Friends: Crossing the final frontier

It’s done. Which is good, because I’m so ready for something new.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 11.08.32 am

The only straight shot that was usable on the windiest day this year!

It’s taken almost exactly seven months (a few days under – I started it on 10th November last year). It began as a piece of busy-work to keep my hands occupied and my mind peaceful when I went into hospital last year for a spot of surgery. It’s grown out of all recognition, well beyond my original idea for the piece, and has taken on a life of its own, becoming virtually common property amongst the worldwide friends who have contributed fabric, poetry, encouragement and vision. The Mackay Show deadline seemed like a good idea at the time, something so far away that it was easily achievable. But as always, time ran away with me and I’ve only just squeaked in, after subjecting myself to the sort of pressure I don’t really enjoy.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 11.09.00 amDon’t ask me how many hexies it contains, because I don’t know, and I’m not going to count them. In any case, the answer to that question is “enough”. Here’s some detail:

This quilt is the result of a collaboration between myself and blogging friends around the world. The design was triggered by Carla’s gift of an indigo furoshiki, or gift-wrapping cloth from Japan, which featured rabbits, waves and the moon. According to Japanese legend, the figure seen in the full moon is not a man, but a rabbit, who was placed there by a holy man in return for an act of kindness. This beautiful cloth gave the rest of the quilt its Japanese flavour and the name of the quilt is written in Kanji characters across the middle, which translates to Worldwide Friends. On the back are haiku in English about both quilt-making and the rabbit legend, some written by fabric donors, others by non-quilting friends in lieu of fabric. Many of the indigo fabrics are Japanese, others are from Indonesia, India and Africa as well as Europe, the US and Australia.

Techniques used
Front: English Paper Piecing, hand appliqué
Back: Machine piecing, English Paper Piecing, hand appliqué
Hand painted calligraphy on front in gold resist medium
Handwritten calligraphy of haiku on back panels in ink
Lightly hand quilted in ‘big stitch’ quilting to stabilise layers only
The quilt is faced with hexagons on the reverse rather than bound, to retain the hexagon shapes at the edge.
Hanging tabs are integrated into the top seam, as this is a wall hanging
The quilt is effectively double-sided, allowing it to be turned to display the haiku on the reverse.

The Worldwide Friends:
Carla, Australia
Tracey, Australia
Nanette, Australia
Dale, Australia
Rita, Belgium
Jan, Wales
Lynn, France
Viv, France
Gun, Sweden
Cath, USA
Sue, USA
Esther, Netherlands
Emmely, Netherlands
Jule, Germany
Annett, Germany
Carole, UK
Kirsten, UK

This quilt is now, at last, ready for entry into the Mackay Show on 25 June, and I am so ready to start another project!  My first priority is to produce the three blocks I’m making each month as part of the Foot2Freestyle block swap. After that, I have a birthday quilt to make for mid-October, a large bed quilt to make for my niece to celebrate her marriage (already late, but she forgives me), and then, finally, I’m free to choose. The list of candidates is considerable…

But first, a day off… maybe.

Amistad Chapter 7: one third quilted

It was a very long and tiring day yesterday.

I baked all day long. Two lots of chocolate fudge brownies. Two lots of carrot cake with lemon creamcheese frosting, a big vegetable frittata, 6 chicken and mushroom pies, a gingerbread and date loaf. I had to get more plastic containers to transport them. The orders have gone from 3 items once a fortnight to 5 items per week, so it’s looking hopeful, but on baking day it has me on my feet all day in a small kitchen, having to wash up constantly because I have no space!

I also got the AHQ quilt finished, packed and sent off, in good time to reach HMAS Toowoomba before she sails. I just love waltzing into the post office and plonking down a box they can’t charge me for! Parcels under 2kg to an AFPO are free. I have had to straighten a couple of people out about this, and managers have been called, but they know now at my local…

Screen shot 2014-08-22 at 5.40.39 PMScreen shot 2014-08-22 at 5.41.03 PMWhat I didn’t get a chance to do is work on Amistad. So today, after I sorted out all my tax return paperwork (oh yes, I got that done too!), I sat myself down in a peaceful frame of mind and just got stitching. I’m now about a third through the quilting. It’s getting easier and quicker. I have everything neatly to hand at my sewing table, I rest the hoop on the table edge to save my arms and shoulders, and I have a brilliant LED work light with a magnifying lens for when my eyes get tired. Like now…

Screen shot 2014-08-22 at 5.39.39 PMBack to the needle.

Advancing on two fronts…

I have progress to report, but the photos don’t really do it justice.

On the AHQ quilt, I have finished the front and the back, and it’s sandwiched and mostly pinned, ready for quilting to start tomorrow. I have used up all three of my boxes of  quilting safety pins, having two quilts currently at the quilting/ready to quilt stage, so there are a few rather gappy areas.

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The back: red at the top, then cream, then the navy kangaroo fabric I love so much. Simple, easy, and DONE

I was therefore forced to do some work on Amistad, so that I could free up some more pins for the AHQ one. Oh, the hardship… I still need about 15 more to properly secure it, but my fingers are complaining quite loudly now, both from the arthritis and from the needle sticks. It’ll have to wait till tomorrow.

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Smaller Big Stitches, achieved in a fraction of the time.

I’m pleased with how the hand quilting is looking. I tried a short ‘between’ quilting needle when I first started hand quilting years ago but I couldn’t get along with it. So I’ve always used a fine long needle with a long eye. On the first Amistad block with interlocking circles I found the curves were too tight to use the long needle properly. I was getting grumpy, and the needle got bent. I fished out my needlebook, took out a between needle, and away I went. I will never go back to a long needle. I don’t know what’s changed, but I’m loving the short fine needle now and I can work much faster. I can even see myself doing weeny stitches, it’s so much easier to use. But try telling me that before!

Right, I must now attack the third front: the Wedding Sampler.  Until tomorrow…

Amistad Chapter 6: taking big stitches

I’ve started the hand quilting, and in the process I’m rediscovering my quilting calluses.

The design is a step and repeat of two alternating patterns based on Japanese sashiko stitching. The first is a grid of interlocking circles called Shippo, or Seven Treasures. It looks a bit like the quilt pattern for Cathedral Windows. The second is a simple square design called Raimon, or Spiral, which is almost a Log Cabin. As the quilt top and backing are not sashiko fabrics, I’m not attempting to use the thicker special sashiko thread, which would be impossible to force through this closer weave.

Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 5.41.10 PMScreen shot 2014-08-15 at 5.41.26 PMScreen shot 2014-08-15 at 5.41.41 PMThey’re both pretty easy to stitch, and I’ve managed two 12″ squares today. Only 23 more to go….

The photography lighting is a bit moody, but it was the only way to show the quilting up against that extremely busy floral, and as I’m using white thread, it doesn’t show on the cream back either unless I light it from the side.

I’ve just taken a look at the latest post from Aussie Hero Quilts, and they need 4 more quilts urgently for HMAS Toowoomba before she sails. I’ve put  my hand up for one, but it’ll have to be a very simple one that I can finish in under a week, or it won’t reach her in time before she deploys. I’m waiting to hear if they still need it or if someone else has snaffled it up…

Nothing like a deadline to make me get my act in gear.

Amistad Chapter 5: the distracting sandwich…

Since I’m no longer going to be project manager at a building site, I thought I’d get out my sewing machine again.

I need some distraction. We have an offer under consideration on another house, and the wait is a bit trying. So I thought I’d give myself an alternative form of frustration which I could actually do something about. Doing the quilt sandwich on Amistad fit the bill nicely. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I love grovelling and pinning… not. While I’m waiting for the phone call, I may as well be making progress on something!

Screen shot 2014-08-12 at 9.52.42 AMFor the backing, I’ve gone for a nice wideback in a rich cream with a pale cream overprint in a floral design which echoes the designs on the front. I find I prefer a plain, unpieced back – my mistakes show up less, if it’s not absolutely straight it doesn’t matter, and the trim-offs are always useful. And if it’s a print, quilting errors don’t scream at you either. I like to get things right, but I prefer to get things done, so I’ve slowly become a bit more forgiving with myself if there are imperfections. I’m never going to enter competitions, so it doesn’t matter, putting a quilt in the local show isn’t exactly trying for Houston, and every quilt is a learning process.

Screen shot 2014-08-12 at 9.53.00 AMI haven’t yet decided how I’m quilting this one. I think I may hand quilt it in big-stitch, and I’m considering a way of integrating names and a date to commemorate the friendship this quilt is named after. As always, it’ll be quite lightly quilted because I like drape versus the stiffness of much quilting, but perhaps this one will have a little more than usual. The top is very simple, and can carry off a bit of extra. I’m thinking of a big Baptist Fan or clamshell design…

Any suggestions?


Hello again, Happiness…

Screen shot 2014-04-23 at 8.26.34 AM Screen shot 2014-04-23 at 8.26.10 AMI ♥ Happiness!  

And I’m not being all teenage and girly here. I’m literally ‘hearting’ Happiness. I faffed about for several hours yesterday, putting off the moment when I actually threaded my

needle and sat down with the quilt in my lap. I always hate starting, because there’s so much still to do. But it’s going surprisingly fast. I’m not even going to think about how many I still have to do, but it’s not going to take too long.

I’ll look at it again once the hearts are done, and work out whether I think outlining the squares too is necessary/would look nice. I like my quilts only lightly quilted, I find them softer and more drapey.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get a good bit more done in the next few days. We’re due some rain, it’ll be a lot cooler, and I won’t mind sitting for hours with a great big quilt in my lap. I held out as long as I could yesterday, but after a while I was so hot I couldn’t stitch nicely, it was bothering me too much even with the aircon going. Life is hard for tropical quilters, eh? As usual, I’m not using a hoop to quilt in, just stretching the quilt over my hand. It seems to work fine.

In between times, I’ll get back to the small list of little projects. Some of you will be getting lawn hankies soon – I’ve started cutting out the squares.  Some will be small and dainty, others will be larger and suitable for a good blow. It depends on the piece of scrap I’m using!

Right, back to work.





The Tree of Life 17: slowing the pace

As some of you already know, the attempt at machine quilting this epic has failed. 

There are simply too many changes of direction to make it even remotely viable. I blithely imagined myself whirring along at speed. Amazing how one conveniently forgets the wrestling with fabric, cursing, rolling and unrolling, aching shoulders, sore neck and all the other associated joys of machine quilting. Now multiply that 3 or 4 times taking into account outlining every leaf, branch, fruit, flower, root, blade of grass, bird and fish. I was ludicrously ambitious! After starting and stopping, sewing and unpicking several times, it was clear that I was going nowhere fast, and in order to preserve the fabric without further damage, I followed the Husband’s eminently sensible suggestion to hand quilt it. That man never ceases to amaze me. I assume all this quilty stuff is going right over his head, but actually, he’s paying attention and actually processing the information.

Three middle birds and three branches completed

Three middle birds and three branches completed

So, it’s being hand quilted. And you know what? It’s going well. I’m not going to pretend that my stitches are neat and Amish-tiny – I’m doing ‘big-stitch’ quilting because I want to finish it in my natural lifetime – but it looks nice, softer and a little puffier than machine quilting, and the stitch police aren’t coming round to check my work any time soon. Plus I don’t have to worry about aching shoulders, burying the knots or unpicking wonky bits. I’m using a combination of a round frame and just stretching an area over my hand to hold things flat, and so far that’s working well too. When I made my heirloom bed quilt and hand quilted the whole thing with an overall clamshell design, I didn’t use a frame. I had it rolled up on a table, and worked along the table edge, using tension from the roll and a hand underneath to keep things flat. That worked perfectly. Unfortunately I don’t have such a big table here, but I may see if I can make it work, since the quilt’s smaller too.

So there won’t be any dramatic visible changes for a while. Small increments of achievement, probably not very exciting to look at. Big celebration when I’ve finished in the central circle. Another big celebration when I’ve finished the rest, and then a final whoopee when it’s completed. Meanwhile, I’m going to allow myself to start contemplating other projects, so long as I don’t start taking major chunks of time away from this one.

Time to get those needle calluses back on my fingers. I’ve already left blood on the quilt…