Monday, 1 September 2014

Round the World Blog Hop

Today I'm doing the Round the World Blog Hop that seems to have been everywhere lately.  I was tagged by two lovely ladies - Kirsten from Gemini Stitches and Jess from The Elven Garden.

The idea is that I answer some questions and then tag three more bloggers to answer the same questions in a week's time.  I was thrilled to be asked to participate, and delighted to be tagged by two such talented quilters, but I have to say that finding three more people who haven't already participated kinda filled me with dread.  SO, I am breaking the rules and am not tagging anyone specific.  However, if you have a blog and you would like to answer these questions but no-one has tagged you already, consider this a tag!

If you're a new visitor from Gemini Stitches or The Elven Garden, welcome!  I'm in my late twenties and live in Wellington, New Zealand.  I've been documenting my quilting journey here for over two years now, and I am absolutely loving both quilting and blogging.  As well as working full time as a lawyer, I have started teaching some quilting classes this year, and dabble in pattern writing.  Ok, so onto the questions...

1. Why do I write/create what I do? 

Have you heard of the concept of flow?  This is a pretty detailed description of flow, but I would summarise it as what happens when you are completely absorbed by and engaged in an activity, usually to the point where you lose track of time.  I consider myself very fortunate, because I find that flow state in a couple of different places.  On a good day at work, with the right piece of work and the right circumstances, I can become completely absorbed and the time just flies by.  Occasionally I'll find it in another activity (writing non-work things, for example) - but sewing is the most reliable way for me to find flow.  My sewing days and weekends speed by.  For me, quilting seems to have the perfect balance of creativity, challenges and repetitive work that lets my mind wander.

I also love fabric - I started buying fabric before I was even a quilter.  Sometimes I wonder if most quilters are really just fabric collectors who need a reason to buy so much fabric!  I enjoy exercising the part of my brain that is concerned with colours, and shapes, and contrasts, and values, and proportions, and all those aesthetic things.  And, increasingly, I find I'm valuing the handmade, a rarity in what can be a mass-produced world.

2. How does my writing/creating process work?

In terms of writing my blog, I suspect I'm somewhere in the middle in terms of organisation.  Except during the height of summer, when it's still light enough to take daylight photos after work, I take all my photographs for the blog on the weekends.  Therefore, I usually write my blog posts for the week on Sunday night.  I tend to have a rough plan for the couple of weeks ahead, but I don't tend to write it down anywhere (unless there are really important dates to remember).  Other than that, I don't really plan ahead too much - I like to be able to blog about what I feel like blogging about at the time.  I do often think through what I will write in my blog posts before I write them, so the writing process doesn't take a lot of time.

In terms of quilting, I try to get quilting time in where I can.  I aim to have one day each weekend where I pretty much stay at home and quilt - that's where I get the most done, and since I was talking about flow above, it's nice to know that I won't be interrupted too much or be trying to squeeze sewing time around other commitments.  If I only have a short amount of time, I tend to do things I consider prep-work - perhaps making binding, cutting fabric, pressing blocks, preparing appliqué shapes, drawing the lines on squares to make HST, that kind of thing.  I almost always make quilts in an assembly line fashion - I'll cut all the fabric in one go, and then I'll do the first step of sewing (chain piecing, of course), and then I'll take everything to the ironing board and press it, and so on.  It's partly about efficiency, but it's more that I just prefer to do it that way (although I know some of my friends think it's a bit odd!).  I don't usually keep a list of things I'm working on - I figure that if they're important, I'll remember!

Ok - that's enough from me I think!  So, if you'd like to participate in the Round the World Blog Hop as well, these are the questions to answer (except you don't have to answer all of them, if you don't want):

1. What am I working on? 
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
3. Why do I write/create what I do? 
4. How does my writing/creating process work?  

Thanks again to Kirsten and Jess for tagging me - it was an interesting exercise for me at least to think about why I quilt and how I do things, and I know I've been finding other people's answers to these questions fascinating.

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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Giveaway winners!

The winners of last week's giveaways have been drawn.

First up, bee is the winner of a couple of patterns from Juliet at The Tartankiwi.

And Shayne is the winner of the Quilter's Dream batting sampler pack from Massdrop.

Congratulations to both the winners, and thanks so much to everyone who entered!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Caturday Wisdom #83

Don't underestimate the effect of a smart appearance...

...when negotiating boundary lines. Ralph

I think this is what sitting pretty looks like for a cat. It's possible Ralph was trying to minimise heat loss on a cold day but that might be giving him too much credit.
Happy weekend!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Introducing Massdrop (and a giveaway)

Today I'd like to introduce my newest sponsor, Massdrop.  Massdrop is a website that brings people who are interested in similar products together to buy in bulk and therefore access great prices.

This Heather Ross Far Far Away bundle is one of Massdrop's current drops.
One of the pretty cool things about Massdrop is that any member can create polls for products they'd like to be able to buy.  You can also vote on any poll and join in the discussions.  The way Massdrop works is that once enough people have voted on a poll, Massdrop contacts the supplier and sets up the deal. Prices are usually tiered, so that as more people join the deal, the price goes down further and further.  You aren't charged until the deal ends, so you only ever pay the lowest price that the deal reaches, and you can also commit to join when the deal hits the lowest possible price.  You can check out more of the technical stuff on Massdrop's FAQ page.

How cute are these Elizabeth Hartman animal patterns

The other cool thing about Massdrop is its crafting buyer, Sarah.  She is a quilter herself, and I think you can tell from the polls she starts and the deals she puts together.  She's also super active in the discussions and when @massdrop comments on something on instagram, that's Sarah.  I've been emailing back and forth with her about Massdrop joining me as a sponsor, and she is a delight to deal with and truly passionate about making Massdrop awesome for crafters.

For me, the clincher is that Massdrop's shipping prices to New Zealand are really reasonable.  That's a huge factor in my online purchasing decisions (other online stores take note) and I know it's the same for other people who live outside the US.

Massdrop is generously letting me give away this Quilter's Dream batting sampler pack.  I have to confess that I haven't tried Quilter's Dream batting before, but I'm excited to try the three different kinds of batting in this pack.  There's enough batting here to make three twin size quilts (or double bed size, by New Zealand standard).  One of the things I really like about Massdrop is that the low prices and great shipping rates mean it's a good option for trying new things you've been wondering about but haven't wanted to commit to.

To enter, just leave a comment here.  If you want, you can let me know something you'd like to see on Massdrop.  The giveaway will close at 8:30 p.m. New Zealand time on Sunday 31 August 2014, and I'll pick a winner using the random number generator. This giveaway is open internationally, but if I can't contact you, you can't win. Please make sure to leave your email in the comment if you think you might be a no-reply blogger (and check out my tutorial here if you're not sure).

I know my posts have been a little giveaway heavy lately.  It's really a function of timing - enjoy it while it lasts!  I'm still committed to maintaining a high level of content on the blog and keeping sponsored posts to an appropriate level.

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Ursa Major aka the Big Bear (and a giveaway)

A couple of months ago I saw that Juliet from The Tartankiwi had designed an amazing big bear block.  I put my hand up to pattern test it because I thought it was just so cool!

This was the image I saw in Juliet's instagram feed!

I have to confess that when I opened up the pattern Juliet sent me, I wondered if I'd bitten off more than I could chew.  This block is 30" square and there are quite a few pieces to tape together.  I have some experience with paper piecing but I wouldn't call myself a paper piecing expert or anything.  However, once I decided to make a polar bear version, I got so excited about putting my block together that I got over my fears.

Ursa Major

After that, the whole process went super smoothly.  It took me one evening after work to cut out all my pattern pieces and tape them together, and then this Saturday I pieced the whole thing in one day.

Ursa Major

You can see from the back of my pattern that I made quite a few notes to myself to help with fabric placement!  It's definitely a must with something this size.  I also used a lot of Juliet's paper piecing tips and tricks and they really helped, particularly with some parts of the process I've found challenging in the past, like joining the pattern pieces.

Ursa Major 

I'm so glad I got through my nervousness about this block and actually stitched it up.  I am completely in love with the bear I made.  Using a lot of low volume fabrics for the bear presented quite a challenge in terms of getting enough contrast between the different parts of the bear's body - something I relished.  My fabric choices were not completely perfect but at the same time they resulted in some surprising and pleasing things (like the bear on his nose and the &love tattoo), so overall I'm happy.

Ursa Major

I was lucky enough to meet Juliet earlier this year when she was in Wellington for Handmade.  She is honestly the nicest person and I am just in awe of her talent for designing paper pieced blocks.  You absolutely must head over and check out Juliet's post which shows the block she made and the blocks all the other pattern testers made - without exception they are gorgeous and creative!

Juliet's Big Bear pattern is now available on Craftsy for the super bargain price of $2.95 for the first 48 hours (the price will then be increasing to $5.00 which I still think is a bargain for the massive amount of work Juliet has put into making this pattern awesome and easy to use).

Ursa Major

Juliet is very kindly letting me give away a pdf copy of her Big Bear pattern, together with a pdf copy of one of her other patterns.  To enter, just leave a comment here letting me know which other pattern of Juliet's you'd like to win - you can check out her Craftsy store here.  If you win and you've already bought the Big Bear pattern, Juliet will either refund you, or give you another pattern of your choice - whichever you prefer.

The giveaway will close at 8:30 p.m. New Zealand time on Sunday 31 August 2014, and I'll pick a winner using the random number generator.  This giveaway is open internationally, but if I can't contact you, you can't win.  Please make sure to leave your email in the comment if you think you might be a no-reply blogger (and check out my tutorial here if you're not sure).

Thank you, Juliet, for letting me be a pattern tester for this block.  It pushed me to do something that I wasn't completely sure I could manage, and I love the result.  I think the most satisfying quilts come from the times you push your limits and succeed anyway!

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Full disclosure: the links in this post are affiliate links.  This means that if you're not already a Craftsy member and you sign up after clicking through from this post, I'll earn a small commission.  I've been a Craftsy affiliate for ages because I think their classes are great and I love the way they facilitate indie designers like Juliet.