Blue Ribbons and Huge Grins!

To everyone who encouraged, supported, donated fabric, wrote haiku and put up with me whinging — THANK YOU!

Worldwide Friends has won First Prize in its category and Best Exhibit of Show.

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I’m totally stoked (if you’re not Australian, this translates as delighted, thrilled, very happy, chuffed and gratified). Can you tell?

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To all the Worldwide Friends: I couldn’t have done it without you.

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:

The most remarkable outcome is that the Judging Team have asked me if I will please attend their next sewing group day on Wednesday next week, bringing the quilt with me to give a talk on how it came to be, how I made it, etc. And would I please like to join them every week after that….?

The Husband thinks it’s hysterically funny that when I first turned the corner and saw the quilt and its ribbons, the first word out of my mouth was a rude one. Not a very, very rude one, but not ladylike, nonetheless!

PS: we’re keeping blue ribbons in the family. Auntie Marion’s tatting took First Prize as well!


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: seeing red last!

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 12.33.46 pmI’ve plugged on, gritted my teeth, and finally, finally, I have the centre quilted. Just the facing, hanging pocket and final line of quilting around the outside to go. It’s been long. It’s been boring. It’s been painful. But it’s done.

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I felt that at this stage a small celebration was called for. You can’t go wrong with cupcakes and coffee to celebrate a quilty milestone. The fact that I enjoyed them in solitary state means there aren’t quite as many left as you see here. Oh, and I make no claim to skill at piping frosting. It’s on. That’s all I ask.

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Spot the ghost bunny in the quilting.

The next phase is finishing the edges and installing hanging loops. This is definitely going to be a wall hanging rather than a bed quilt, so I don’t mind having loops. Here’s how the facing will go on: I lay out the facing hexies, following the outline of the flower edges on the front. I then whip-stitch together a manageable  strip of facing, ladder-stitch it to the outer edge, remove the papers, and then add the next strip of facing to the side of the first and repeat. Once the full length of the edge is done, I’ll hem down the inner free edge of the facing to the reverse of the quilt.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 12.34.04 pmIt’ll go like that around three edges, starting at the bottom and working up the sides. On the top edge, I first have to sew the hanging loops to the straight edge of the quilt body (ie, the backing and batting), in the dips between hexie flowers before starting the facing. Once that’s attached, I proceed as before, except that I need to hem the free edge to both sides of the hanging loops, so there’s a little extra work along the top edge. I need to dig out a long piece of dowel to use to ensure that the loops are even in length, otherwise the thing will hang wonky, not a good look at either the Show or on the wall at home.

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Doesn’t look like much, but there’s enough there to go all the way around the edge of the quilt

And here is the result of several evenings’ work on facing hexies. There are 182 of these babies, enough for the whole facing. I needed some dark red thread to stitch the facing together; oh dear, a visit to the LQS… Why is it I cannot go into that shop without coming out with something I didn’t know I needed?

It’s difficult to maintain momentum with this quilt. If it were machine made, I’d look at it and think that I had just a couple more days of work to go, but because it’s all done by hand, it does seem to be interminable and I get discouraged and demotivated, and it’s all too easy to walk away and think of things I want to do more. If I’m ever tempted again to submit a large hand-stitched hexie quilt to a show only 6 months after starting it, will you guys out there please talk some sense into me? Although it’s adequately quilted in terms of holding layers together, it’s not quite as fully quilted as I’d like, and if after the Show is over I still feel that way strongly enough to dedicate hours more work to tweaking it, I may revisit the quilting.

That said, it’s just gorgeous, thick and warm and beautiful, and I love it and the generosity and friendship it represents! I like it even better after several vanilla cupcakes…

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.


A mixed bag

It has been a trying few days.

We discovered, after receiving an astronomical power bill, that our solar array wasn’t working, and hasn’t been for some time. As a result of paying to get it fixed and paying said astronomical bill, we’ve had to cancel a planned trip to Melbourne in June. Very disappointing; I’d hoped to catch up with friends and family, do a bit of shopping, show the Husband where I used to live, that sort of thing. It’s not really a substitute, but to make up to ourselves for missing out on Melbourne, we’re going up to Cairns on the bike for 4 days of zooming around the hills, eating good food and catching some amazing scenery. That’ll be at the end of May, and I’m looking forward to it a great deal, especially now that the weather’s a bit more moderate.

I’ve been a bit under the weather recently, and am waiting for blood test results, and my annual flu shot is making me feel a bit yuck too, a bit shivery and headachy.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 8.24.00 pmScreen Shot 2015-04-23 at 8.23.18 pmOtherwise, life has been busy, with the result that I haven’t managed to make much progress with quilting Worldwide Friends. I’ve managed three rows of red hexie quilting in the last 3 days, which is pretty poor progress — I should be able to get three rows a day done at the very least. I’m hoping to feel better and have more time tomorrow. At this rate, I definitely won’t have time to quilt the filler hexies too. It’s always the way, isn’t it: lots to do in limited time, and events conspire to reduce your time even more!

We have a few more plans in the backyard, including three raised beds for vegetables, down the side of the house and near the water supply so irrigation won’t be a problem. The Husband is going to mark out and chip out the base for the chook house in the next day or so, so Chookonia is a few steps closer too.

Right, time to get tucked up in bed and try to sleep myself well again.

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.