Time for Teal 15: Let the quilting begin!

And it has. Begun, that is.

Centre and dresden borderHere’s the entire collection of blocks for the main body of the quilt. All that’s missing is the outer border of random blocks. Somewhere in the last 3 days, the healing of my back has turned a corner and I can now sit at the machine, stand to trim or cut, and bend over very moderately to pin or adjust things. It’s been a bit of a revelation; who knew that making quilts was actually quite demanding?

central row completeThis central row is done; quilted and joined. I’m not hand stitching the folds down on the back; I don’t know how gently the quilt will be treated in its future life, and I don’t want hand stitching coming apart, so it’s getting stitched in the ditch on the front of the quilt, which captures the fold tidily on the back. The speed of quilting and assembly is one of the fun parts of QAYG (Quilt As You Go). No matter where you stop, you end up with a mini-quilt of some description.

I started off by quilting more densely than I normally do, mainly because I could; the blocks are only a foot square and easy to manipulate. But I soon realised this might cause problems on the squares where the measurement was exact or perhaps even a bit scant. Quilting draws up the fabric, and too much of it will make the block a little too small. That’s a problem with QAYG, which relies on accurate blocks, sashing and seam allowances. Moving forward, I’m letting the block designs sing more loudly than the quilting, which will be minimal.

Tomorrow, I’ll start on Row 2, and then comes the fun of joining two rows!


The Cloths of Heaven 19: border control

I’ve finished piecing the borders.

The work of the last few days has been pretty repetitive, and frankly, much too dull to post about. But now, I have all four side panels pieced, so I can show you the outcome of the earlier poll. I give you Radiant, in all its glorious colours!

Borders finishedYou can see now what I was aiming for; the overall impression is still blue/green, but there’s a gorgeous red glow surrounding the centre.

Speaking of which…..

Borders and centreI can’t get far enough away in the room to take a shot straight on to the design wall, hence the slightly annoying angled shots.

None of the sides are attached yet; tomorrow it’ll be time to start cutting the backing and batting strips, sandwich the panel, and then quilt, prior to attaching them to the centre. I’m still slowly churning out yoyos for the outer border; up to 56 so far.  Only another 150 or so to go, then…

I’m feeling really happy with how this quilt is coming along. I love the challenge of bringing to life something that has only existed in my head, and this is a lot more complex than most of my work!

I think if I can keep up the momentum, I should be able to get it done in time (with a little space to draw breath) for second week of February, and the handover in Sydney to another niece who can carry it home to her sister!

The Cloths of Heaven 6: the writing’s on the wall

Before you ask, no, I’m never going to run out of puns.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.47.27 pmI left you with the silver pen tests, and the realisation that I needed to use the darker blue-based fabric for the ring around the central landscape.

There was only one problem; the fabric wasn’t quite large enough. I did a bit of thinking and scribbling, and realised that if I cut it in 4 pieces instead of 2, I could just get it out of what I had.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.47.59 pm Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.48.47 pmSo once again, it was mark, mark, mark, make template, cut out, pin, sew, sew, press. Then I had a nice blue ring of fabric with quite exceptionally wobbly bias edges. Back to the machine, stay stitch to stabilise, and then the big nasty, the curved seam around this 32 inch diameter landscape. I got it done, took it calmly and slowly and used lots of pins. There’s a slightly baggy area around the centre top of the landscape, but that’ll quilt out.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.49.27 pmI went back and used the same template to make up the master for the hand lettering. I checked first that it would show through the dark blue on the highest lux setting on the lightbox. It’s fine. Then I drew curved parallel lines in the template for the lettering. I’m not going for immaculate, pristine calligraphy, I want it to look hand-lettered, not machine-generated. Then it was time to start sketching in the lettering. It’s harder than you think to letter at this size; my hand is accustomed to forming letters of a certain size, and the size I need required fine control I won’t have in my arthritic hands much longer. Still, use it or lose it. Once I was satisfied, I inked in with a black medium Sharpie for good visibility when tracing, and tidied up as I went along.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.50.12 pmPinned in position, ready to start tracing and silver inking tomorrow (probably). Once that’s done, I have corners to add, some ivy leaf appliqué to create and apply, together with bias strip ivy tendrils, and then, my friends, the central panel piecing is done. I had better start thinking about backing fabric, which tends to be much further down the track normally, but this is, let’s remember, a QAYG piece, 9 sections to be joined when completed, and the central panel, whilst the largest, is only one piece.

Still plenty to keep me interested and busy, wouldn’t you say?

The Bookcase Quilt: happily ever after

That’s how books are supposed to end, isn’t it?

And that’s how the story of the Bookcase Quilt is also going to end. It’s done, despite a number of delays and obstacles in my path, and I’m very happy with it. It’s not my most immaculately made or quilted piece, but it’s perfectly personalised and tailored to its new owner. I’ve had a lot of fun making it, too.

So here it is. The eagle eyed among you will observe a few pins still in the binding as I had not at that point quite finished stitching it down. I had to get some photos while there was still reasonable light, as it’s going off tomorrow to my niece. The pins do make that side hang a bit strangely, but at least I have a record.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 5.10.41 pmScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 5.11.16 pmAnd now it’s time to move on to something else. I have my F2F blocks to make for this month, I have a large blue & white Bulldogs RFL team quilt to make for the 60th birthday of a friend’s husband, and I have a pile of fabrics and garment patterns singing a siren song, which I’ve firmly resisted so far.

I’m going to start with pressing all the fabrics and cutting the pieces for the Bulldogs quilt, all 240 of them.

Good job they’re all nice simple squares…

The Bookcase Quilt: No fine for overdue books

I drove my niece to the airport this morning.

With considerable regret, I might add, and not just because I wasn’t able to send off her quilt with her. She’s been a wonderful guest, entertaining, undemanding, helpful, happy to join in whatever fun was on offer, and deeply appreciative of my cooking. We had a very good time together, and I’m sorry she’s gone. I was considerably distracted from the matter in hand, the Bookcase Quilt, but as she pointed out, she’d happily wait, and I could send it after her once it was ready without killing myself to get it done before she left.

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The vertical seams are joined edge to edge with large zigzag stitch. The horizontal ones are held in place with masking tape just until I can get round to stitching them on Monday.

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Top row, waiting to be added.

So instead we had fun, I didn’t sew as much as I planned, and the quilt is lying in 3 pieces, waiting for the assembly to be completed. The quilting is complete. I didn’t stitch any detail into the owl bookends; I did some test pieces and wasn’t happy enough with the effect to risk messing up on the actual owls. I’m fine with them as they are now! Assembly has started: I have joined the three blocks across the top, the middle and the bottom, and the strips that conceal those joins on the backs are done.

Today and tomorrow I have baking orders, tonight is family dinner night and I have the meal to prepare for that, so the next time I’ll be able to sit down and work on it is Monday. That’s OK. If I can finish the assembly on Tuesday and take the binding with me to my sewing group to be hand finished, it’ll be done by the end of the week.

I wanted a photo of us both with the quilt, but will have to content myself with any photos she sends me of it in use: in the park, at the beach, at her yoga retreat, on the sofa with yet more books….

The Bookcase Quilt: hoping for miracles

It’s been the first time I’ve been able to get back to the sewing machine since my last post.

On Sunday I was struck down by one of the worst migraines I’ve had in many years. Acute light sensitivity, disturbance to my sense of smell, a vicious headache and periodic nausea. No sewing for me that day.

My niece arrived on Monday, and all thought of work was abandoned She had been in the country 3 days, and her luggage had not yet arrived. Large quantities of time and stress have been devoted to finding out what Air China have done with the suitcase containing all her most treasured possessions, carefully packed for the start of her year in Australia. It left London, and somewhere between there and here (with a stop in Beijing), it has gone walkies. Air China are profoundly unhelpful, and their customer service number ‘is no longer in service’. Her insurance company wants receipts for everything in the suitcase (I ask you, who keeps those for garments three years old, some of them?); only Qantas are being helpful, saying they think they have found it, but she won’t know till she goes back to Sydney on Saturday. We are crossing all fingers and toes.

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Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.44.40 pmAfter a trip to hospital this morning to have a cardiac monitor fitted for 24 hours, today, at last, I got back into the sewing room.

I’ve cut the backing and batting for all the squares, and have pinned and quilted two of them. You can’t see it very well, in these small photos, but if you click on the image you’ll be able to see the spines puffing out between the lines of stitching in a most satisfactory way! The background has 2″ cross-hatching to stabilise it and contrast with the straight lines of the books. That’s invisible, which I’m quite happy about.

I’ve also sewn on one of my TTFC tags as a spine label on one of the books, and have put a plaque on the owl block which has her blog logo on it.

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I still hope to get this finished before she flies out on Saturday morning. It’s going to need some seriously concentrated work on my part and a strong following wind, but she’s delighted to lie on a sun lounger in the garden with a book and a cup of tea or go for a ride on my bicycle rather than waiting to be entertained, so we’ll both be spending quality time doing what we enjoy. She’s totally un-crafty, so I can’t conscript her to help finish the quilt, but she’s excellent at making cups of tea!

It’s good to be back behind the machine…


The Bookcase Quilt: L is for…

Lovely Lucy’s Library!

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 4.00.55 pmAnother shelf finished, this time the one with the big capital L in honour of the one she has on her bookcase at home. The L jumps out so much that I thought I’d better keep the books quite simple and plain otherwise there’d be a visual fight going on.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 4.02.01 pm Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 4.01.29 pmI found a great family photo for the quilt in my huge iPhoto file. It’s of my brother and his 4 daughters, including my visiting niece, and they all look lovely, even my brother… (in case you’re wondering, he doesn’t normally dress quite so formally, he was getting married!).  I just reversed the image in the online free PicMonkey editing suite, printed it onto transfer paper, dry ironed it to some plain white fabric, and then bound it as I would a quilt, to give it a 3D frame which stands out from the quilt surface. I really like the effect! The figures in the photo I will outline quilt, so they’ll have a little dimension as well. This is fun!

I still want to feature those dratted white owl bookends of hers. They’re extremely cute, but the problem is that the images of them you can find online are either at an angle or lack enough contrast to make a good transfer; you lose a lot of image quality when you bond it to the fabric. I’ll do a test edit of an image to see if I can beef up the grey-scale and contrast enough to get something usable. If you want to see what the bookends look like, go here for a nice photo.

Two more blocks to go and then the tricky bit is done. I’ll move on to cutting squares of backing fabric and batting, sandwiching the blocks and then, hurray, quilting can start. It’s going to be amazingly liberating to quilt small pieces instead of wrestling my usual monsters under the machine needle…

I’ll be back tomorrow with more to show.