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.

Sea Glass #12: just the border to go

I feel fully justified in a bit of “tah-daaaa”

All 12 of the large 16 inch windmill blocks are quilted. Yes, my fingers are sore, thanks for asking, but the sense of satisfaction has a wonderfully numbing effect.

Now I just have the border to do. But before I get started on that, I need to repin the border. Working from the centre out is important in hand quilting, just as it is when quilting on a domestic machine. It’s virtually impossible to get pinned layers perfectly smooth and tight as you can on longarm rollers, and I had nowhere suitable to spray baste an 80 inch square quilt. There will always be a little excess fabric in one layer or another, and it’s better if that manifests itself at the edges instead of the middle. Sometimes you can quilt the excess out, sometimes not.

On this quilt, there’s a teeny ridge of surplus backing fabric between the quilted blocks and the rest of the pinning, which needs to be smoothed out and the layers repinned. It’s not a biggie, but it does need to happen before the border quilting starts.

Also before I start I have to think about what I want to put there. It would be a lot easier to mark up without the pins in place, so maybe I have to do that first…

So, thinking cap on, cup of coffee… oh bother, no chocolate!

Sea Glass #11: the wind’s four quarters

So, five of the windmill blocks done, and seven still to go.

I’ve been plugging away at this, doing an hour here, a couple of hours there. Each of the windmill blocks is 16 inches square, and it takes about an hour and a half to mark and then quilt them. I’m outlining each windmill and adding a curve to each ‘blade’, and then I’m putting wavy lines in each quarter of the square around the windmill, to represent the wind swirling around the blades of the windmill. It’s actually very soothing, now that the calluses on my fingers have built up enough. The trick is to do a bit each day to maintain them!

It’s beginning to get that lovely puffy texture in the quilted areas. The back looks great too. Soon, I’ll have to think of something to do in the outer border. The same criteria apply: something I can work easily in one or two directions, some-thing that covers space without being too dense and fiddly, and some-thing that works with the design of the quilt and existing quilting.

But first, those other seven squares.

Sea Glass #10: central square complete

This is more fun than I thought it would be!

Hand quilting can be physically demanding. It can make wreckage of your fingers, give you a backache from hunching over your work, and a slight sense of “will this never end?” if you’re working on a really big quilt.

But somehow, I’m managing to avoid most of those problems. Not the finger wreckage of course, that’s an occupational hazard (although my calluses are developing nicely), but I find to my slight amazement that I’m really enjoying hand quilting this rather large piece of work. All 6,400 square inches of it….

So, anyway, I’ve got the central flower basket medallion and Border 1 done. Now I have to address Border 2, which consists of large 16 inch pieced squares with a windmill at the centre of each.  I’m thinking of maybe something that’ll create a swirl effect around the windmills, with gentle curves, to create a contrast to the formal geometric woven design used for Border 1. Or it could be something completely different. I need to spend some more time squinting at it before I decide.

Something I need to consider with whatever design I come up with is that I don’t want to keep turning the quilt to stitch the design fully; it needs to be something that can be stitched in just a couple of directions so I don’t need to do gymnastics across the table top. It’s not a question of compromising the design, just being a bit clever about how it’s executed. Unless it turns into a freehand design, I’ll probably make another paper template to make marking up the quilt top easier.

It’s a good job the days are getting longer and summer is coming. I need all the good daylight I can get 🙂

Sea Glass #9: keeping my hand in

I won’t be going back to the radio silence of the past couple of weeks…

And stuff has been going on in the background, just nothing I wanted to post about yet. But I wanted to show you where I’d got to with the hand quilting on Sea Glass.

So, the four central flower basket blocks are hand quilted. That wasn’t quite as much fun as it might have been; there are lots of layers in parts of the blocks which made it quite tricky getting the needle through evenly and tidily. I was very happy about my ‘big stitch’ decision at that point! Once that bit was done, I had to work out how to quilt the first border. I was in the hand quilting groove by that point and thought I’d carry on.  I’m not using a frame or hoop on this job; I have the quilt laid out on my 3 metre (10ft) dining table with the area I’m working on flat and the rest rolled and folded on either side. This creates enough tension that I can quilt without needing a frame if I work on the edge nearest to me. The only downside is that I can’t use the table for anything else right now!

You can see the design I’m using quite clearly on the template. Because it’s geometric, it was pretty easy to transfer the design; I just punched holes through the direction changes and intersections of the lines, and marked through with either a fine pencil on the light fabrics or a white ceramic marker on the dark ones. If you click on the image below you can see how it looks when marked.

Lift the template, join the dots by drawing in lines with a ruler and the job’s done. Hand quilting these is quick and easy, they’re all going the same way. There may be a bit of subsequent filling in around the corners, but I’ll see how it looks later once the main part is finished. This is a big (80² inch / 2m²) quilt and I don’t want to make work for myself if it’s not necessary.

Now I just have to think of something for the next border 🙂