ST&D: 28 down, 2 still to go

My first mail of 2018 was a squishy!

It was a promising start to my quilting year, and this lovely postcard block from Esther brings the total to 28 blocks received and only two more to come. They’re both coming from Margaret, and one of them I know is already done. The other is the final postcard block.

I’d like to thank all the participants for getting their contributions to me so quickly. I’ll now have a generous amount of time to  arrange, sandwich, quilt and assemble the blocks before the deadline in mid-April. On previous occasions it has sometimes been a bit of a narrow squeak to get it all done around my other activities, so I’m very grateful for the luxury of time.

I have a number of new ideas for future Ovarian Cancer Australia quilts. Some require very straightforward piecing only, others will have moderate appliqué elements, and other still need more advanced curved and paper-piecing skills. Whatever your skill level, there’s an OCA quilt to match it, so if you’d like to join us in 2018, either again or for the first time, let me know.

I hope your 2018 has begun as well as mine. May your year be satisfying, creative, healthy and happy!

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ST&D: a first

Hello again, with the latest report from Signed, Tealed & Delivered.

This beautiful block arrived today from the lovely Sandra in the UK. She’s created a postcard block with the view from an old family home of hers, showing one of England’s many White Horses. These White Horse images are vast, carved out of the thin turf covering chalk downland, and some of them are very ancient indeed. This is Sandra’s first ever appliqué quilt block, and I’d like to congratulate her on the imaginative image and the beautifully neat job she’s made of it. I must also draw your attention to the background fabric, which she decorated herself; it’s not, as most would imagine, a patterned fabric.

I’ll definitely be calling on Sandra again next time we have an OCA quilt in the pipeline 🙂

She also sent me some gifts, and these are also her work: the notecards are either her photo, or photos of images she’s created from natural and found objects. I love the pole dancer myself – I think she’s probably called Shelley, don’t you? And that Jaffa Cake keyring is a cute reminder of one of my most favourite bickies from the UK. You can’t get them fresh here; they import them but they’re horribly stale by the time they reach the specialist shops that stock them. Thank you, Sandra, they’re all lovely, and just in time for Christmas!

So, we’re just short of 4 blocks. Everyone has been exceptionally helpful about getting their work to me promptly, and I expect the final ones to come arrive in January or perhaps the end of this month. And then, ladies and gentlemen, it will be time to start arranging, sandwiching and quilting!

Meanwhile, it’s 32°C/90°F, humidity’s at 75%, and it’s time for a cold drink and a sit down!

ST&D, postcard 2

I thought I’d change things round for this second one.

The last one had all the fancy business on the front. This time, I’ve made more effort with the back and the actual background. I’ve made a panel of hand-pieced EPP hexagons for the front, the classic patchwork look, using a variety of teal scraps. But combining that fairly plain front with another plain back didn’t do it for me.

Scans, right reading

Reversed, to print on transfer paper

I went to my letter and postcard pile (I get so few now, I like to keep them to read again), and I sorted out ones that had nice stamps and postmark franks. I scanned them, retouched them, cropped them out and arranged them on a single A4 page in Word, at pretty much actual size. Then I took a screen shot of the page, opened it in Preview* and reversed it so it was now a mirror image of itself. You can see where I’m going with this? Yup, I’m making transfers. I printed the reversed image onto an A4 sheet of HP transfer paper. My printer uses pigment inks, so transfers printed this way stand up OK to being washed once they’re ironed onto fabric and heat set. Follow the instructions on your transfer paper package for the best way of applying the transfer to fabric. Once the image was transferred, I cut out each stamp and postmark, and then stitched them down onto the background.

At this point, I have to make a confession. I cut the background piece too small, so I had to sew a bit back on. Being me, I couldn’t stand the horribly slightly visible seam, so I came up with the row of decorative stamps and postmarks down the side. I actually love the way this looks, so all’s well that ends well, don’t you think?

I have some stamps and postmarks left, on a ‘brown paper’ back-ground. I must think of a cunning plan for using them up! Much too pretty to throw out…

 

*I’m working on a Mac, and the way of producing a reversed image may differ on your computer.

ST&D postcard: not embroidery, then…

It’s as I suspected.

I did a test piece and I simply can’t get the needle and thread through the bits where there are three or four layers of fabric, especially when one of those fabrics is a densely-woven batik. Add to that the need to use a layer of waste canvas* and it’s out of the question. So…

I’ve changed things round a bit. The ‘Greetings from Tropical North Queensland’ bit runs diagonally across the back of the postcard and is hand-lettered in indelible ink, as is my name in the address section. I’ve used a font that looks like vintage ‘brush stroke’ lettering, to keep the kitschy-postcard-vibe going. Happy with the result… The front will stay message-free.Here’s the finished block. And now I’ve proved to myself that I can do it, that’ll be quite enough of that!  The next one will be considerably simpler and quicker 🙂 I have another postcard block to do, plus the OCA ribbon block, plus the postage stamp block in the centre, and I’m not doing complicated for each one.

On with the next one! 

*waste canvas is where you place a layer of canvas or other gridded fabric like Aida on top of the surface you want to embroider, do the embroidery, and then pull the canvas out, thread by thread, leaving just the embroidery and the fabric surface. Again, very fiddly, but it produces an excellent result.

NOTE: The free online photo-editing suite I have been using has now decided it won’t let me save my edited images unless I start paying. I ask you all to be patient while I learn to use the built-in editing options on my MacBook, which are not as versatile, but present a more economic option than paying over $140 a year to make my photos a little prettier!

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 🙂