Worldwide Friends: Crossing the final frontier

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

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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.

Worldwide Friends: the fruits of frustration

My holiday’s loss is the quilt’s gain, the silver lining to the cloud.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 4.21.58 pmHere’s where I left it on Friday evening. Both sides have the hexie strips assembled, waiting to be attached. On the left side, I’d got halfway through stitching the strip on, edge to edge. That needed to be completed, the papers removed and then the inner free edge hemmed down onto the back of the quilt. Then the whole process needed to be repeated on the right side.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 4.24.39 pmHere’s where I got to today. The quilt has been flipped so I can work on the unfinished short side. On the right, the border is fully applied. On the left, it still needs to be stitched on. Two down, two to go.

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At the bottom, the hexies for the right hand edge are waiting to be attached edge to edge, then hemmed down.

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The left hand edge and the ‘mistake’ bottom edge

The quilt now has to be finished. I’ve put in the Show entry and paid the fee. I need to ring the Show steward and find out if there are any restrictions on the size or materials of the rod to be used for hanging. This is being entered as a wall hanging, and because it’s not a standard size, you have to provide your own rod.

We were going to have a guest on Friday evening, but that has been put off, so I now have additional time there. And with luck and a following wind, I may be excused some of my jury serving time, so I’ll regain those days.

The final day for handing in the quilt is June 18. I reckon I’ll just make it, so long as I keep on keeping on.

Finally, I promised to let you know if the Aspirin & Arnica cream works to reduce the pain in my hands. It does!  Also, it smells pleasantly of teatree oil, the texture is nice and light, with just a trace of grittiness (not sure if that’s arnica plant material or ground-up aspirin!), and I’ve made considerable inroads into the contents of the jar. Here are the details Ella Dee sent me – you can order the stuff from their Facebook page, or just ring them up.

I don’t suppose they’ll send outside Australia, and indeed, there are restrictions on sending things classed as medicinal in most countries, but I suppose it’s worth a try… They could always label the parcel ‘hand cream’!


Worldwide Friends: hexies, holidays and hands

The first side is faced.

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Proud of that tidy stitching!

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.05.00 pm It’s fiddly, but effective. I like the way it looks, and the way it allows the hexies to sing instead of imposing a straight edge. The two short sides will go more quickly – because they are short and because I don’t have to make and add in extra hexies to cover my mistake. The top edge will take a bit longer again.

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Layout for the first short side. No stupid mistakes with the trimming this time!

I have one day left to work on it this week. On Friday, we’re heading north to Cairns for a long weekend of blissful motorbike riding, swooping around the dizzy bends of the Gillies range and over the heights of the Atherton Tableland. I’ll be posting about that, but I won’t be lugging the quilt with me! Instead, I will take some embroidery handwork, and you’ll see that in my next stitch along post on 31st May.

Next week I have to try and crack it. Starting 1st June I’m on jury service for 2 weeks, and while I may not need to serve every day, there’s no guarantee of being let off, and worse still, no guarantee that the case I’m allocated to will not run over time.

Thank you all for your sympathy for my poor toe, and the kind and helpful suggestions on how to deal with my painful arthritic hands, which are taking a punishing with all the hand stitching just now. Ella Dee has come up with Aspirin & Arnica cream, which is a topical anaesthetic and herbal rememedy, and is sending me some to try. If it works, I’ll let you all know, and where it can be ordered from if you’re in Australia.

Right, back to work.

Worldwide Friends: Facing unpalateable facts…

Unpalateable fact No. 1: I am a total idiot sometimes.

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The problem…

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…the solution

The facing for one side is assembled, and I’m about to begin applying it. I made a stupid, stupid, stupid mistake last night, and trimmed off excess quilt in the wrong place, which means I had to make and add extra hexies to the facing to hide the gap. I was tired, it was late and I cut before I thought. Note to self: never do anything terminal with scissors when you’re tired and not thinking straight. It looks OK, and I don’t have a problem with the bottom facing border being slightly deeper than the other sides on the back, which is just as well, or I’d be making a whole heap more hexies, which I surely don’t have time for.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.28.51 amToday, as it’s raining (hurrah, brilliant news!), is an indoor day and I hope to make significant sewing strides without being lured outside by the siren song of the garden. I just have to make a delivery to the coffee shop, and then I can crack on.

My hands are getting pretty bad now. I wake every morning to find them stiff and aching, and it takes a while to get them mobile. Opening jars is becoming virtually impossible. I think they’ll hold out till WWF is finished, though, and after that, the next quilt on the production line is fully machine pieced and quilted until I have to hem down the binding.

Anyone out there have any quick fixes for loosening up arthritic fingers? I’m not talking drugs or supplements, but something more immediate: hot water’s good, but only a short term solution…

Motto for today: measure twice, cut once….

Worldwide Friends: running rings round rabbits

A tiny break from hexie-outlining was called for. The lure of the bunnies proved irresistible…

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 3.18.19 pmScreen Shot 2015-04-30 at 3.18.37 pmI decided it was time to outline the bunnies in the centre panel. The moon got the same treatment, and there’s a banner outline round the name. They’re slightly puffy, which is pleasing — bunnies should be soft and puffy, I feel. Quilting these printed images on their wholecloth background showed me how much trouble I’d made for myself outlining the hexies, with their multiple seams. Another time, I’ll be doing something a lot simpler for a hexie quilt. And I’m starting to be seriously tempted to do a plain wholecloth quilt, perhaps just a small one, but one where the quilting is the point. Just to see if I can, you understand…

There is progress, as you can see. Soon, I’ll be able to start making hexies for the facing. Failing major obstacles and the siren call of the garden, I’ll make the deadline.

I’d have liked to quilt the fillers as well, but there just won’t be time. Maybe I can do it after the show, just for my personal satisfaction.

Time for a new needle. I’ve bent the last one…

Worldwide Friends: Easy does it…

I gave myself some time out for fresh air and exercise in the back yard. Frankly, I needed a bit of a breather and time to look at greenery. But I’m back.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 6.51.00 pmI’m quilting WWF without a hoop or frame. It means the stitches aren’t quite as neat or as straight as they would otherwise be, but it also means I don’t have kilos of heavy, hot quilt in my lap during the process, I don’t have to shift said kilos of quilt around as I stitch in the ditch around each red hexie, and I don’t have to shift the frame every two hexies. The quilt sits on the table, slightly bunched up in the area where I’m working, and lies stretched over my lower hand. I have enough slack that I can turn just this working area a little as I stitch round the corners. The rest of the weight is on the table. I can withdraw my lower hand, stand up and walk away.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 6.50.31 pmThe pin basting is in the centre of each red hexie, so a hand’s breadth apart. I was concerned I’d be catching the thread on the pins, but so far it’s hardly been a problem. I stitch one side of a hexie to anchor it, then remove the pin and stitch the rest. I’m burying the knots as I go — it’s the only way on this dark quilt, as locating strays at the end would be time consuming and tedious.

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5 rows completed; the arrow shows where I’m up to. 15 more rows to go, and then I can start the facing.

I’m not aiming for perfection in the finished result. I’m human, and a defective one at that, and I can forgive myself for slightly wonky, slightly uneven stitching. The hexies themselves are pretty perfect, and if the quilting is less so, well, so be it. I’m not entering this quilt into the Show for competitive reasons, and I don’t expect or hope to win anything, I just want to share the friendship, the collaborative process and the joy that quilting brings me.

Right. Time to stop typing and set a few more stitches. Slow and steady does it.


Worldwide Friends: time for a sandwich

… the kind with pins in it!

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220 pins in place…

It’s layered and pinned. Now for the hand quilting.

I had originally planned to do a 4 stroke basket weave design, with the strokes 2″ apart in a 6″ square. But as I was pinning, the quilt told me this wouldn’t do. In places there are 6 or 7 layers of fabric piled on top of each other, and furthermore, the hexie flowers didn’t want straight lines carving through them. The rabbits weren’t keen either…

So. I looked at it some more, and thought some more as I pinned. The new plan has time-based options, parts A and B.

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 5.40.21 pmA is definite. I will quilt around the outside of each red hexie at the heart of each flower. This will also minimise the number of seams I have to cross. If time permits and my hands and fingers hold out, I will also do part B, which is to quilt around each filler between the flowers. A alone will give a puffier, looser look. The addition of B will be flatter and neater. I’d like to do B as well, but will be content with A if I run out of time. That’s 220 red hexies – and the same number of fillers if I do B. I think I will also outline the rabbits, the moon and the curved strip of lettering that is the quilt’s name, which will get done whether I manage part B or not.

The back will have a regular grid of fine blue hexie outlines all over it. On the front, the quilting will scarcely show, as I’m using dark blue quilting thread amongst all those dark blue prints. The original plan for the hanging pocket will not work now, so I’m still mulling that one over. I don’t have to decide until I reach the far side of the quilt, so there’s time. I thought I’d feel a pang of regret at giving up the original plans, but actually, there’s a sense of relief. So I reckon I’m on the right track.

Tomorrow I have to bake most of the day so I can deliver to the coffee shop on Monday. But quilting will commence on Monday afternoon. Cross your fingers for me.

Worldwide Friends: next stage complete…

I’ve got the back panel finished.

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A windy, overcast day. Great for drying laundry, not so clever for photography…

I don’t LOVE it, but I do like it and find it fun, which is all I demand of a back! I’m OK about hanging it this way round from time to time, to remind myself of the haiku, the contributions everyone made, and some of the reds that didn’t appear on the front. There’s just a tiny bit of hand stitching to do on this bit, to attach the small red accent hexies between the large floral panels. I could machine stitch them on, but I prefer hand appliqué.

Finally I still have the facing border to do. This panel is 60″ x 72″, so it needs to be about 5″ wider and taller. I think we’re talking partial hexie flowers rather than full ones, but I need to get it laid out flat, the back offered up to the front and the difference clearly seen and measured before I can be sure. I also need to make some allowance for how the front and back panels will contract slightly when the hand quilting is done. Somewhere in there I have to work out the hidden internal rod pocket, and how the quilting will hold that in place.

Two months to go. In that time, I have to make the facing and do the quilting. I’m going to need a bit of luck and a following wind, I think…

Worldwide Friends: The back’s going forward

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.03.35 pmJust because I’ve been hacking at the under-growth it doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy with my needle once the sun’s gone down. I’ve got a Show to enter!








You’ve seen the two right hand panels already. I’ve added two more columns, including the haiku section. And clearly, I’ve been unable to resist making more hexies, even if they are giant ones. I had a lot of fun with them, and got them stitched onto the background last night. The borders on the hexie panel are still ‘drafts’ which is why they’re wonky – in case you were wondering if I’d gone a little slapdash here. The haiku panel is stitched together but still needs to be sewn on to the section on the right. Some of you should also recognised fabric contributions, too! I’m actually enjoying the wonkiness and lack of things lining up properly here. The back is a series of columns that don’t match, align or relate to each other in any way, in a truly scrappy back. Given the strict discipline of the front of the quilt, I thought it was time to play a little…

Visualise the whole back surrounded by red hexies. I don’t know yet whether it’ll be a single row, or a row of flowers; it’s going to depend on fabric supplies, time and whether my hands hold up..

Short post this morning, I’ve got a jungle to sort out.

Worldwide Friends: back in front

The front of WWF is neatly folded on my work table.

The adventure that is the back of this quilt has begun. I’ve marked out the approximate area on my design wall, and am creating panels and pieces to be arranged within this area. It’s the loosest way I’ve ever worked on a quilt – Aimée came close, but was still much more structured – and I find it a little nerve-wracking, but remarkably liberating.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 3.28.54 pmThe haiku created and donated by some of the Friends have been written out on a series of stone-coloured homespun panels, and will be arranged in a column the height of the quilt with a red border on the dark blue back-ground. The other furoshiki wrapping cloth brought back from Japan for me by Carla of Granny Maud’s Girl is featured, as are some other pieces not used for the front. I have some nice scraps of a Japanese large floral print with a dark blue back-ground which I am also using, and their lavish design contrasts nicely with the slightly severe and restrained colour palette of the front. It’s rather good fun diving again and again into my scrap boxes to find suitable pieces, pinning bits up, taking them down and rearranging them.

I’m going to create a facing around the outside of red hexies, and this will be applied once I’ve done most of the hand-quilting, using whipstitch around the outside edge, and hemming where it’s attached to the body of the quilt. I need the slight contracture of the quilting to be in place so that the facing sits right.

It’s a joy to get back to the sewing machine for this part of the job. My hands are getting a rest, my fingers are healing and the pleasure of much more rapid results cannot be denied!

I hope the next post will show the completed back panel…