A mixed bag

It’s been a physical couple of days.

Wednesday: Stitches out and a pat on the back from the surgeon. The knee is healing well and in a couple of days it’ll be fine to swim. Thursday: My first tai chi class. In case anyone thinks it’s just slow motion wafting around your arms and legs to an imaginary sound track of traditional Chinese music, think again. Move slowly into a position. Hold it…hold it some more…slowly move out of it. Stand on one leg… for what seems like hours. Etc. Yes, it’s slow, but you can easily end up with wobbly legs and aching arms, as I did. But I loved it! I felt energised without being sweaty and purple in the face, and the effect lasted for ages. I’ll be going every week.
Friday: an hour of moderate torture with the physiotherapist, the first of 4. It brought home how much my left leg has wasted in the weeks of favouring it, keeping it immobile and having it strapped up in a brace. With luck I’ll build enough muscle to protect it from further damage.

In between these sessions, I’ve got half of the $11R blocks bordered with dark blue in my now deliciously cool sewing room. I’ll the rest done over the next few days. It looks really good, and will look even better with the colourful skinny scrappy joining strip between the dark blue borders. It’s also very nice having extra space now that I’ve been able to put away all the teal fabrics for the time being.

Best of all, I had a call today from Emily at Ovarian Cancer Australia to let me know that ST&D had arrived safely. She was so excited! The entire team thinks it’s a wonderful piece of work, and she’s definitely planning to bid on it herself. She also loves the mug rug, and says she’s planning to frame it!  I said I’d hoped she’d use it for her mug of tea, but she was afraid of making it dirty… They are having a professional photographer for the fundraising event, who’ll take photos of the quilt as part of the event record. If you worked on the quilt and would like a digital file of the final photo, let me know. She’ll also let us know who becomes its eventual owner, and how much it raises.

That was a really good phone call, and makes all the work everyone has done in putting the quilt together so rewarding.


ST&D: and…. rest

So. It’s done.

This has been such a fun quilt to work on. My well-known propensity for coming up with dreadful puns is well to the fore in the quilts I design for Ovarian Cancer Australia. ‘Teal’ has so many possibilities for punning, and I still have a long list to play with. But once I came up with the name Signed, Tealed & Delivered, the postal theme of this quilt quickly made itself known. It has been exciting to put the concept out there and ask who’d like to play too. I’m constantly surprised and delighted at the response, the generosity with time and fabric of the participants, and their willingness to move out of their comfort zones and try new ideas and techniques. It’s good for me too, as I have to try new things in order to achieve what is swirling around in my brain 🙂

I’ll be taking this quilt to the post office on Monday. I’d thought about sending it down to Melbourne with my visiting nephew when he returns home, but that’s taking it right down to the wire, and I’d like the team at OCA to have the quilt in good time.

I’m going to be taking a good break from teal for a couple of months. I have a number of quilts on the back burners, Footsquare Freestyle (F²F) is starting again soon, Mackay Show is coming up in June and there are quilts promised in the family, so I won’t be idle (no surprise there, then).

Once again, grateful thanks to all who have contributed, whether it’s a block, or several, or moral support or advice. This quilt wouldn’t have happened without you.

And now, I must go and sweep my sewing room floor, and dust, and put all those tiny snippets and threads of teal in the bin. Time for something different, for a while.

ST&D: all together now

Yup, the quilt’s assembled.

Getting over the hump of those two big joining seams is always my least favourite bit. It’s such a sweat wrangling them through the sewing machine three times: first to attach the front and back sashing on one piece, then to attach the front sashing to the other piece, and finally to stitch down the sashing flap on the opposite side on the back. But now it’s done.

I have the label made and the binding cut – I just need to join all the pieces, press it in half and then start stitching it down. Once that’s done, I have a couple of days of lap-work, hand hemming the binding down on the reverse of the quilt and sewing the label onto the back. Good job it’s cooler just now.

At one point I thought I had all the time in the world to get Signed, Tealed & Delivered done; everyone got their blocks in really early, and I made a good start. And then the Dratted Knee. Still, by virtue of doing a little bit every day and just plugging along, it’ll be ready in good time.

I want to say thank you everyone who has participated, both those who have contributed from the very first quilt and new sewing friends. This quilt has turned out better than I could have dreamed, and that’s down to you. OCA are very excited about getting this one for their silent auction at the May fundraiser.

I’ll post again once the quilt is done, so you can see the final product.

ST&D: Two thirds assembled

I have the top two thirds done.

As usual, I’m assembling the blocks in sections and joining those, which gives fewer huge seams than doing it row by row. The quilt’s 5 blocks across by 6 down, so I do a 4 block and 6 block section on each third, join those and then I only have 2 very long seams to do instead of 5, a definite bonus. I stagger the seams so the first third has a 4 block on the left and a 6 on the right, the second section has a 6 block on the left and a 4 on the right, and so on. I don’t know for sure if this makes a difference, but I thought it seemed a good idea.

So, one more third left to do, and then I can stitch on the binding, make the label, apply that, and hand hem the binding down. Not too long to go, and I’m definitely going to make the deadline 🙂 I’m liking the teal sashing on this one, rather than cream. What do you think?  It’s a pretty feathery print, with a tiny touch of warm pink which doesn’t show up at all in the photo.

The knee’s recovering a lot faster than I feared. It’s painful, sure, but not as disabling as I thought it might be. Certainly not enough to stop me sewing completely, although I do have to ration my time at the machine or I come to after an intense session with the knee stiff and yelling loudly at me.

Onwards and upwards…

ST&D: all quilted!

Phew!  That’s a relief….

I have all 30 blocks of Signed, Tealed & Delivered quilted at last.

I was getting nervous about getting it done in time, but now I only have the standing-up jobs of cutting the sashing strips and trimming out the blocks to finish in the next few days, and the mostly sitting-down job of assembling it all to worry about. The outside binding strips are all cut already, and I think I’ll try and get the label done in the next couple of days too, so adding that when I stitch down the binding will be easy. Luckily that final stage is something I can do sitting down quite easily 🙂

I’m happy with the quilting. Wavy lines are not something to get too precious about so it’s pretty quick, the design really suits the nature and theme of the quilt, and I really like the texture you get from alternating directions.

So, tomorrow’s job is cutting 1 inch sashing strips in teal for the front and 1¼ inch sashing strips in cream for the back. If I get time, I’ll print out the label transfer, and iron it down onto cream cotton. Normally I apply the label at the bottom left hand corner, but I might put this one in the centre of the big ‘O’ on the back. I’ll see how it looks once the quilt’s assembled.

Incidentally, today is our 5th wedding anniversary. I looked back at the day’s post this time last year. Oh yes…. Cyclone Debbie had just passed by and we celebrated by cleaning mud off our floors, cutting up fallen trees and washing filthy wet towels. Things should be a lot more civilised this year. Except… I’m carefully watching that huge low pressure system wandering up and down our coastline. Just now, it looks like Townsville may be the favoured spot where it makes landfall, but you never know.

And it’s Good Friday, too. Hurray, Hot Cross Buns for breakfast, my favourite! 


ST&D: 60% quilted

Another two rows done.

This particular quilting design does get easier as you go along. You realise that actually it’s not really necessary to mark up this design on your block top. You learn the time intervals at which you move the block from side to side to get the wavy line fairly even. You realise that very dense appliqué or piecing should not be closely quilted or it will stiffen, so you open the lines out in these areas. You learn – quickly – that it’s a really good idea to clip your starting threads (assuming you don’t use leaders and enders, I don’t) because otherwise the sewing machine will pounce on them and chew them enthusiastically at the start of the next line. You get in the habit of placing a pin in the starting edge of the block to indicate whether the wavy lines are horizontal or vertical for this particular piece’s place in the layout, so that the chequerboard effect is consistent and you don’t get three verticals in a row. And you give your walking foot some love. Clean out the matted fluff, wipe off any spray-baste residue, give it a good dusting.

Past the halfway point now, just two more rows to go. Signed, Tealed & Delivered is going to be sashed in teal on the front and cream on the back, just because. All cream is a bit dull to work with. I found some very pretty fabric for the front sashing, and it’ll make a nice change.

A bit of mindless quilting has been just what I need as a break from marketing strategy and copywriting. Sadly, it’s time to get back to all that. I have an entire website to edit and rewrite.

Anyone would think I was getting paid for it…

ST&D: Lush!

I have four more blocks quilted.

I confess, I was a bit nervous about this one. I wasn’t sure how the Aida fabric would quilt up, compared with the softer quilting cotton fabrics. I was terrified of mucking it up, so I made a sample using the same fabric and quilted that. It seemed to be OK. There were a few small tracking marks where the new walking foot’s feed dogs had gripped onto the surface, but I though the result was pretty good. So I took a deep breath and got going.

It’s lovely. The firmer fabric hasn’t stopped the texture forming, and there’s a gorgeous soft ripple which catches the light beautifully. It’s a really nice contrast with the slightly nubbly texture of the background and stitching. I’m so pleased with it!

Thanks, Margaret, your beautiful embroidery is a real asset to the quilt 🙂

ST&D: 30% quilted, and a lot of words

Not exactly a fascinating post, sorry, but I’ve been incredibly busy.

I thought for those who thought I’d disappeared off the radar, I’d better let you know that I’m still here, still quilting, and I’ve got two rows of Signed, Tealed & Delivered blocks quilted with the wavy lines.

Part of the problem has been poor Ariadne, my sewing machine. You may recall I had her serviced during our holiday, and she purrs along beautifully now, but there was still a mysterious grind and squeak. Well, I tracked it down. It was my walking foot. I hadn’t really looked at it for ages, but now I gave it a close examination. It’s been in pretty continuous use for nearly 10 years by my calculation, and guess what? It shows. The spring is very sad and saggy, the arm that raises and lowers the feed dogs is creaky and sticks, and the feed dogs them-selves are worn almost flat. So I treated myself to a spanking new one, and boy, what a difference. I’m so glad I took a look!

The walking foot ridges are worn almost flat

That said, I’m struggling a bit to find sewing time… “What?” I hear you cry. “Can this be a post from Chiconia?” Yes, it’s definitely me talking. Bonnard is merely inching along instead of flying along, and without the other distractions I’d have ST&D half done by now.

The thing is, I’m doing massive amounts of marketing planning, copywriting and copy editing right now. My oldest (or should I say most long-term) friend owns a school in Barbados, in the West Indies. It’s small (by intent), fee-paying and has a limited intake because of the way they deliver education, in very small classes with study tailored to the individual student, and offering a wide variety of curricula, include the US national curriculum, British O and A levels, the International Baccalaureate, etc. The school receives intake not only from Barbados but also from a wide expat community working on the island.

They’ve just been awarded Cambridge International School accreditation, and the lightbulb has gone on big time. It’s not a small, niche private school any more, but a serious contender in the island’s education stakes, and ALL their material has to be reworked, from business cards up to the website, brochures, signage, the lot. Sadly, the work doesn’t include a business trip over there (although I’m familiar with the school from previous visits), so the entire process has to be conducted online and by Skype. The school itself needs to grow; they want to include boarders, invest in more equipment, offer scholarships and pay their teachers premium rates to stop them being poached by other schools!  I therefore also need to write a business proposal for a prospective Board of Advisory Governors, encouraging them to support the school, assist with fundraising and marketing input, offer business advice, and so on.

I haven’t done this stuff for nearly 10 years. The skills are still there, but my brain has had to be kicked into touch, and I’ve been totally wiped out for the past few days after 12 straight hours of planning, analysis, reading, note taking, writing and rewriting each day. Oh, and designing a brochure for her; she wasn’t happy with what arrived from her own designer. Well, what else do you do when you get an SOS from your girlfriend of 40 years’ standing, whom you still call by the same old nickname no one else understands, despite her being a school principal and all?

The Husband wants us to submit an invoice for ‘1 x 75cl bottle of St Nicholas Abbey Barbados Rum for services rendered’. Me?  I’m doing it for love… 

Invisible work

I’m sorry about the radio silence just recently.

Suffice to say that there have been family conferences, try to co-ordinate the ongoing care of my 95 year old father across four countries and two hemispheres. I have had my own issues; I’m currently sporting a fetching black neoprene knee brace with side stiffening on my left leg while they decide if my torn cartilage needs physiotherapy or an arthroscopy to repair or remove it. At times like these I wish my house didn’t have stairs… It’s been going on for a while, as I did it on the outward leg of our recent holiday without realising what I’d done. The only good part has been that I get to look at the MRI images, which I really enjoy – I’d have been a doctor in another life, maybe.

I have been hand-quilting Bonnard, which I won’t show again till I reach the end in 7 rows’ time. And I’ve been doing what I consider one of the most boring aspects of QAYG: cutting batting. Cutting 14 inch square after 14 inch square of batting is necessary, but really exceptionally dull. I enjoy cutting fabrics: the mental planning and placing of the colours, the patterns and designs, the little stacks building up.

I like that. But batting is all the same; it’s annoyingly fluffy and fibres get caught in your cutting mat so you have to stop and get rid of them. It’s all the same colour. Worst of all, it forms no part of the personality of the quilt, it’s invisible.

Anyway, I now have 5 tidy stacks of batting squares, ready for sandwiching the remaining rows of ST&D. All the front blocks are ready, all the backing squares are cut and laid out. It’s just a question of more production line work: starching, pressing, spraying, smoothing. In order to prevent screaming boredom, I’ll do a row at a time.

Batting… it’s not exactly photogenic, either, is it?

ST&D 31: let the quilting commence!

It’s been a whole lot too long since I worked on this quilt.

Remember this? Yup, Signed, Tealed & Delivered, the Ovarian Cancer auction quilt that’s due in 2 months. Eeek!

I’ve swapped things around a little since this photo, but you get the idea…

Since my last post about this quilt, when I showed the final blocks from Margaret, I’ve neglected Signed, Tealed & Delivered dreadfully. Porch curtains, holidays, hand quilting Bonnard and the Hatbox quilt, needle-point, weather and holiday reports, you name it and I used it as an excuse. Time to buckle down and get on with it.

Behind the scenes, I did cut enough batting squares for the first (top) row. I also cut squares from what I had left of the airmail sticker fabric and the striped airmail-edging fabric I’m using for the binding. There was never going to be enough of these to do the whole back, so I also got some nice dark cream fabric with Xs and Os on it (representing hugs and kisses, of course!), as I thought this was a good ‘sign off’ for a quilt with a postal theme. I cut the remaining squares from this.

Then came the first dilemma. How was I going to combine these fabrics for the backing? When you use all one fabric, it’s just not an issue. I tried probably half a dozen layouts, and when you’re climbing up and down stepladders with a mouthful of pins and a handful of squares, that particular exercise gets old quickly. Finally, I made a central squared ‘O’, with airmail stickers at each corner and airmail stripe for the rest of the shape. Filling the centre and round the outside were squares of the XO cream. Enough already! It’s the back of the quilt, after all… It all took far too long, and next time I won’t torture myself with fabric choices, the back will be all the same 🙂

Then the quilting dilemma: I’d originally intended to quilt each block with an individual design, but looking at each block and assessing what that would entail in terms of designing, marking and quilting each one made me think again.

I realised that the postal theme was all about straight edges and angles: paper, envelopes, stamps and labels were all straight-edged, with angled envelope flaps. The postcard blocks were also angular. I wanted something texturally soft, to contrast with this.

So I’ve gone with parallel wavy line quilting, an all over design which softens the visual effect and gives a nice rippled hand feel. I’m alternating the direction in which it flows on each block. It has the extra benefit of being nice and quick to do, and requires no marking up, hallelujah!

I’d originally though of cross-hatching, but I didn’t like the way the lines would fight with the lines of some of the block designs. Plus, you know, lots of marking up…?

Recently I saw a Craftsy video called ‘Next Steps with your Walking Foot’ by Jaquie Gering on the subject of walking foot quilting. Most of it is stuff I already know and do, but I was interested in what she had to say about preparing your quilt or block before quilting. Historically, she hasn’t been a fan of spray basting, having some chemical sensitivities, but now she wears a respirator to do the spraying and likes the results. She said that starching as well as pressing the quilt top and backing and pressing her batting made all the difference in reducing wrinkles and puckers in the quilting process. Gasp! I thought that was total anathema, as it would crush the batting pile, but I gave her process a go. Well you know, she’s right. So long as you don’t bang the iron down heavily in one place, but glide it lightly and use extra steam, the batting’s fine. And the starching makes a huge difference – it’s a game changer. Doing the extra steps is a bit more of a faff, but you get an almost inhumanly perfect and flat quilt sandwich. I mean, look at this:

Smooth, flat and taut, with not a pin or stitch in sight.

So anyway, I’ve made a decent start, and got a production line going. As always with my QAYG quilts, I’m going to wait till they’re all quilted, and then measure them all to find the smallest one, which will determine the trimmed out size for all the blocks. Some blocks came in at exactly 12.5 inches and some with extra, so I’ll see what the quilting does to the smallest and work from there.

Oh, and I need more spray baste, cream thread and a cream fabric for sashing the back, but how much of the latter I don’t know. I seem to have lost my piece of paper with all the size calculations, drat it. Quilt math, my least favourite part of the exercise.

I feel better now that I’ve actually got some quilting done. The job has been cut down to a manageable size 🙂