Monday 30 June 2014

A block a day

This weekend I saw something which has inspired me to set myself a block a day challenge for July. The Year 60 Quilt was made by Norma Slabbert (who was the speaker at our guild meeting). Norma's quilt involved making a quilt block each day for a whole year, to chronicle her 60th year.

I'm actually considering doing my own Year 30 challenge (I'll turn 30 in September 2015 so would start my quilt on my 29th birthday this year). I'm a bit worried about committing to a block every single day for a year though, so I'm doing a trial run by attempting to make a block every day in July.

My blocks will be 6.5" unfinished, quilted as I go, and then my plan is to put them together using the method Alison from Little Island Quilting is using to assemble her Soy Amado quilts. My rule (like Norma) will be to finish and put away each day's block on the day, so I don't have to catch up at any point. I'm planning to use lots of different techniques and also to let myself make something very simple on those days when I'm under a major time crunch.

Anyway, I'm posting this idea in the hope that having made it public will help me follow through. Also, if anyone is keen to join me, let me know. I could do a linky (maybe once a week?) so people can share their blocks. I'll also be posting my blocks on Instagram using the hashtag #blockadayjuly, so that's another option if you want to play along.

There are no rules, apart from one block a day (and if you want to make them in batches rather than one every day, it's no skin off my nose!). You don't have to make the same size block as me and you don't have to quilt as you go if you don't want to. This is entirely a personal challenge for me, so if you want to do it as well, go with what feels right for you.

Saturday 28 June 2014

Caturday Wisdom #74

Face your fears. Ralph

In general Ralph is not a big fan of this window because it is a long way above the ground but he's up for a bit of Saturday inspiration. This week he also came to investigate the running of a bath (necessary in winter) which he has avoided since he was a kitten and overbalanced while trying to touch the surface of the water. He scrambled out smelling very sweet. 
Ralph believes that you too can conquer your fear of windows and baths!

Friday 27 June 2014

Autumn with a Twist Mini

Sometimes, when I'm making a quilt, it's easy to calculate and cut exactly the right number of pieces at the start. Usually I err on the side of caution and cut slightly more than I think I'll need, in case I lose a piece or mess something up and have to discard something. However, with equilateral triangle quilts, I often seem to end up cutting more than a few extra triangles.

Autumn with a Twist Mini

I had a bunch of triangles left over from my Autumn with a Twist quilt, and used them to make this mini. I really started it so I would have something to demonstrate joining the rows of triangles with in my equilateral triangle quilt class. To mix things up a bit, instead of a random layout, I grouped the triangles by colour so they make hexagon shapes. That was fun but I think the hexagon shapes would be more obvious if it was a larger piece (or used smaller triangles).

My last class in this series of three covered quilting and binding, but I knew my students wouldn't get up to the stage of binding their own quilts by the end of the class. So I lightly quilted this mini to emphasise the hexagon shapes, and then used it to demonstrate how to bind a quilt. When I was learning, the trickiest part of binding for me was remembering how to make the mitred corners of binding (you know, when you hit the corner and fold the binding away from the quilt and then back over itself). Because of this I wanted people to be able to have a go at performing the folding action themselves so they would really understand how it was done (and hopefully remember, with the help of my written instructions, for when they were doing it at home).

Autumn with a Twist Mini

I used a fun bright print for the back of this mini - I just had a fat quarter which happened to be the perfect size. I always enjoy hand stitching binding, but on something like this it's particularly satisfying because it's a pretty short job (and hour or so in front of the TV and you're done).

Autumn with a Twist Mini

I could have made this mini into a cushion or a wall hanging, but I was feeling too lazy to put a back or a hanging sleeve on it so it's just a plain old mini quilt. It turns out it's just the right size for one cat to spread out on or two cats to snuggle up on.

There's nothing weird about making your cats a couch quilt that matches your couch quilt, right...?

I'll be linking up with finish it up friday at crazy mom quilts.

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Thursday 26 June 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Charlotte from Displacement Activity

Today Charlotte from Displacement Activity is joining me for Thursday Inspiration.  Charlotte's quilts cover a range of styles, but its her graphic improv-y and art quilts that really catch my eye.  I love the way Charlotte uses quilting as a form of self-expression - I always think quilting is an art as well as a craft, but you can swing it towards one or the other depending on your approach and I think Charlotte takes a very artistic approach to her quilts.

Charlotte has some mad hand quilting skills and often makes her choice of quilting thread a feature rather than just something functional.  To top things off, Charlotte is a talented dress-maker (seriously, check out this stunning dress), even going so far as to tackle a bathing suit.

So without further ado, here's Charlotte.  As usual, my questions are in bold and her answers are in normal text.

Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter? 
My grandmother and mum used to sew a lot of clothes when I was younger (I have very fond memories of the amazing hand-smocked dresses my grandma made), but there is no history of quilting. I learned to embroider and hand stitch when I was about five, and started dressmaking when I was ten (using an ancient hand-cranked machine). I guess my blood is 50% fabric.

How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for? 
I started quilting in 2001 when my first child was a year old. I can't really remember why I started, but I have loved it ever since.

How would you describe your quilting style?
Lazy! No, seriously, I love improv and playing with colour. I prefer not to follow patterns or use blocks (unless I am making a bed-sized quilt), and that is partly to do with accuracy but also that I quilt to express myself.

Emerald City

Where do you find inspiration for your quilts?
Often from paintings, or from wanting to play with colour. A lot of the time I don't know where they come from - they just sort of appear in my head.

Are you a member of a local guild? 
I was, but now I am an individual member of the MQG.

Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life? 
I was lucky enough to be able to go to QuiltCon in 2013 where I met loads of people, which was wonderful. I also went to the Fat Quarterly Retreat in London. Meeting people is often so surreal, and so fantastic!

How did you decide to start your blog? 
I really love writing (one of my day jobs is as a scientific editor, so words are kind of my thing) and I love the sense of community. It's also nice to get feedback (since most of my real life friends are of the non-sewing variety).

Juicy Fruit

What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could?
People are so willing to help - if you need advice then an Instagram post will get answers really quickly. I love that! One thing that I would change is the size of the world. All quilters should live on a small island so we can hang out at each other's houses whenever we like. Not too much to ask? 

Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now? 
Bloody hell, I've just counted. There are 20 lap/twin/king size and 11 minis. And another king size one in the middle of being quilted. That's quite a lot, isn't it. *blush*

Charlotte, in a dress she made (it's a dog toy, apparently).

I know you do quite a bit of garment sewing - do you have any tips for quilters thinking about branching out to garment sewing? 
Start with a pattern by an indie designer, like the Washi dress (Made by Rae). The instructions are written in a much more accessible format than the traditional pattern companies (McCalls, etc) and there are often online resources that are really helpful. Also, don't worry about using all that fabric in one go - remember, there are always loads of scraps left over for quilting!

Do you do any crafts other than quilting (and garment sewing)?
I knit and crochet, although not very often. It's just too slow!


Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that?
Quilting is definitely a hobby, but I would like to submit to more shows. I was lucky enough to have two quilts hanging at QuiltCon, and am absolutely planning on entering again.

Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share?
Glue basting! It (sadly enough) changed my life!


What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)? 
I actually love it all, mostly because I avoid the parts I don't like (machine quilting big quilts). I even like hand stitching bindings!

What's something about you that people might be surprised to know?
I can't think of anything - it's all out there on my blog!

Thanks so much to Charlotte for participating - her answers were really interesting and I love the tips for quilters who are thinking about trying garment sewing (umm, that might be me...).  Pop over to Displacement Activity to check out Charlotte's other pieces and follow along with her quilting journey.

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Monday 23 June 2014

Garden for Birds 2

Oh my goodness, I finished a quilt!  It feels like a very long time since I had a finished quilt to share with you, and I've been missing the feeling that comes with finishing something.

Anyway, a bit of history.  This quilt originally started out as a quick design sketch (yep, I am really great at drawing...).

And then I made the first version, for a friend's baby, in kind of similar colours to the original design (although a number of things changed).

Garden for Birds Quilt

This latest version uses a completely different colour palette (inspired by this quilt which my friend Anne has been working on) and the design has changed yet again.  I've been working slowly on this quilt for a while (you can see my WIP post from early June here) but this weekend I really needed to get it finished.

Garden for Birds 2 

I'm teaching this quilt over a series of classes at Nancy's Embroidery, so I simplified some of the elements to make it more suitable for beginners.  I also added a greater variety of blocks to cover a variety of different skills.

Garden for Birds 2 

I really had fun with this version - for example, those gingko leaves are reverse appliqué.  I cut the light part out of the fabric, put the green fabric behind, and machine blanket stitched it in place.  The two tone binding was a last minute choice - I really wanted quite a plain binding to calm the quilt down slightly, but I still wanted enough contrast so you could actually see the binding.  The light/dark split was the obvious solution (the light grey looks solid, but is actually the grey crosshatch from Architextures).

One thing that I was not very happy with in the last version of this quilt was the quilting.  Ultimately I didn't feel like it improved the quilt, and kind of only added to the chaos.  For this version, I really wanted to avoid that and went with a simple crosshatch pattern for the quilting.  I love how a crosshatch adds instant softness to a quilt, and in this case it totally does not distract from the piecing and appliqué.

Garden for Birds 2

I found a couple of garden themed fabrics in my stash that were just perfect for the backing.  I especially love that green fabric - I wish I'd bought more (and may have to hunt more out!).

So this quilt will be hanging out at Nancy's for the next couple of weeks, before I take it off to be entered in the Capital Quilters' exhibition.  Wellingtonians, if you'd like to make your own version, I believe there are still places in the class and you can get all the details on the Nancy's website.  I think it will be a fairly challenging class for a beginner, but if you come ready and keen to learn, you will learn a lot.

Quilt Stats
Pattern: my Garden for Birds pattern
Finished Size: approx 36" by 42"
Fabric: many
Backing: Petunia in Pink from Little Azalea by Dena Fishbein, Field Day in Green by Josephine Kimberling for Blend Fabrics
Binding: Kona cotton in Steel, Architextures grey crosshatch
Pieced and quilted by: me

I'll be linking up with finish it up friday at crazy mom quilts.

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Saturday 21 June 2014

Caturday Wisdom #74

It's what's (not) on the inside that counts. Ivy

Ivy is of course referring to her outer beauty but also her lack of tangled intestine aurifil. She is totally back to normal now and her formerly naked stomach now has hair the length and texture of velvet. Perfect for her royal highness. 

Thursday 19 June 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Jolene from Blue Elephant Stitches

Today's Thursday Inspiration is Jolene from Blue Elephant Stitches.  Jolene makes the most amazing quilts with a real handmade look and softness to them.  She's a master of unexpected colour and fabric combinations.  For me, Jolene's quilts have a calmness and almost a sense of nostalgia to them, as well as a touchable quality which makes me want to stroke them through the screen. 

As well as enjoying Jolene's quilts, I really like her blog voice - she often writes about her design and making processes, and the things she does and doesn't like about her quilts.  I think she's a really thoughtful and honest person and that comes through in her writing.

The original pixelated heart quilt.  This is still my favourite iteration of this quilt.

Here's Jolene! As always, my questions are in bold and her answers are in normal text:

Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter?
I come from a conservative Mennonite group, and therefore have a long line of seamstresses behind me! Both my grandmas sew or have sewn quilts as well as all of their own dresses. My mom as well is an accomplished seamstress, and quilts are just one of the long list of amazing items she can create with her sewing machine.

That being said, I’m still looked on as a bit of an oddity because the necessity for quilting as a practical form has died out over the last 50 years, so at this point I only know of a sprinkling of women who enjoy quilting as a hobby.

How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for?
Other than being surrounded by a humming sewing machine while growing up, (my first projects were clothes for my Barbies!) my serious interest in quilting began when I started working at the local quilt shop.

This shop was owned by another amazing seamstress and quilter, who patiently let me learn to quilt by sewing up basic panel quilts as samples to hang in the store. I began working there part time at age 17, so that means I’ve been quilting for about 12 years! I’ll save you the math, I’m turning 30 this fall :-)

How would you describe your quilting style?
This might be the toughest question! I’ve always felt like I was all over the board, without a recognizable style. The quilts I’m drawn to are usually either simple and graphic, or based on traditional patterns. I think the factor that makes me like any one of these varying types of quilts, is a touch of unexpected warmth or whimsy. I don’t want my quilts to take themselves too seriously!

Field of Triangles 2

Where do you find inspiration for your quilts?
This has changed and evolved over the years. Most consistently though, since about 4 years ago when I ‘discovered’ quilt blogs, I’d have to say it’s been all the amazing quilters who I’ve found online.

I’d like to say that I find inspiration through nature and the world around me, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case for me! I think that patterns and colors may inspire me in an intangible way, but for the most part I’m just inspired by modern quilters and also antique quilts.

Do you like to follow patterns or create your own designs (or a bit of both)?
Definitely a bit of both! It’s exciting and challenging to take an idea in my head and translate it into a quilt. When I’m making an improv or more modern style quilt, I don’t generally follow a pattern.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s just so enjoyable to pick up a pattern and relax in the process of making the quilt without having to figure and think!

Are you a member of a local guild?
I’m not part of a guild. I was going to say that it’s because I live in a rural area and the nearest Modern Quilt Guild is over an hour away. In all honesty though, it’s more likely because I’m the shy loner type by nature, and the interaction I get through my quilting blog feels like enough for me right now. There have been times where I’ve thought it would be fun to go to a meeting, but I just haven’t ventured out of my comfort zone yet!

Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life?
See answer above! No I haven’t. Although I’d love to!

How did you decide to start your blog?
I was reading other quilting blogs for about a year before I started mine. I was so inspired and excited by all these quilts that were so much more my style than anything I’d seen in a quilt shop or quilting book before. I eventually started to feel like I wanted to share in this online community, and since I was selling my quilts on Etsy already, it seemed like a natural fit.

Jolene's original Granny Square quilt

Your granny square block tutorial kind of went viral (I even have my own granny square quilt)! What was that like? Did you ever think when you wrote that tutorial that it would take off like it did?
Interesting question! I had no idea it would take off like it did! Rachel of Stitched in Color asked me to be a part of her Color Series and to come up with a quilt block tutorial. I’d been oogling those Granny Square Crocheted throws, the ones with the white backgrounds and multicolored centers. I adored them but didn’t know how to crochet so decided to make a quilt block with a similar look. At the time I wasn’t aware that this was a similar block to the traditional Album quilt block, I was just trying to recreate a crocheted granny square!

It was exciting to see so many people enthused with this design, quite an amazing feeling! It’s been a great learning experience for me, about how I view my own ideas, the ownership that people feel over their designs, and the influence that inspiration from others has over our own work.

Overall, it’s taught me how important it is to credit others for inspiration that we’ve directly found from them. (Thanks to so many of you! It just makes my day and I want to always do the same for you).

On the other hand, I’m much happier if I can let it go and relinquish ownership in my own mind. I didn’t invent the light bulb after all! Although I didn’t realize it at the time, all I was doing was taking an underused traditional quilt block, adding breathing room and some white background with bright colors and BOOM! we’ve got something that appeals to the quilter of today.

What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could?
I just love the generosity and warmth I feel from other quilters. If you’ve mentioned being inspired by a quilt of mine, or sent me an email saying my blog has helped you in some way, you have no idea what that means to me! It can boost my whole week. Although I’m not overly chatty and involved in online groups, I still like the feeling that if I’d meet any of these quilters, we could stop and have a great talk and there would be a special connection.

If there was one thing I would change, it would be the commercialization of blogs in general. I’m just making the step to accept a few sponsors on my blog, and I’m not judging the choice to make money with your blog! I’m interested in that myself, of course. It just feels that more bloggers are thinking of their blogs as a business and if they’re not, then they’ve moved to Instagram. I just miss the whole ‘journaling of the quilting journey’ thing :-)

Jolene's Feather Quilt

Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now?
If I don’t include the quilts for sale in my Etsy shop, it’s about 10 – 12. I give away or sell a majority of my quilts. Seems I’m a bit unusual that way, and I’m actually trying to get myself to keep a few more, since I now regret a few that I’ve sold. Mostly though, I love sending them off to new homes where they’ll be loved, rather than languishing in a pile at my house and making me feel guilty!

Do you do any other crafts than quilting?
I have the love of all crafts within me, but for now I feel like quilting is a jealous taskmaster! And isn’t quilting the best craft? You get to work with all this amazing fabric, and then create a piece of art that you can snuggle up with! Seriously though, home decorating (is that a craft?) would be the other creative interest that I’d dabble with occasionally.

Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that?
My goal is for my quilting to always be a hobby in the sense that it’s enjoyable with minimal pressure to perform to a set of standards. Right now I’m dabbling with the business end of it a bit, just to see if it’s something that could be sustainable for me long term.

I love a quilt that makes its maker happy, like this log cabin quilt!

Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share?
Here’s a few random thoughts…

To the beginning quilter: Start small and simple! You may have become inspired to quilt because of some amazing complex quilt you saw, but please start with a small patchwork quilt for a baby. Finish it completely before you try anything more! You need to make a couple of quilts from start to finish, somehow this just settles the whole process into an intuitive place in your head and you’ll be ready to tackle new skills.

Another thing is scant ¼” seams. This makes all the difference on accuracy in piecing!

Finally, there are no hard and fast rules. There may be ‘good’ ways or ‘best’ ways to do something, but you need to discover what works for you!

What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)?
My favorite part is planning the quilt! Design and fabrics meshing together… Least favorite part? Definitely piecing the backing and basting. Ughh!

Do you ever get stuck when you're working on a project? If so, how do you get through that?
I think I get stuck on one in every five projects I start. I used to power through them, but I’m learning to set them aside. Sometimes I become reinspired on how to fix them up and fall in love with them, but more often they just sit and marinate for a year, and then I’ll send them away. I’ve got a whole tubful of half finished projects that are bothering me right now!

McElligot's Pool Quilt - I love how it was inspired by the colours on a page of a Dr Seuss book.

Are there any quilting techniques you haven't tried yet but that you'd like to?
I’ve never really used fancy shaped rulers to make unusual shapes, for example the Hex n more ruler from Jaybird quilts. I’d like to try that in the future.

What's something about you that people might be surprised to know?
Hmmm... There’s only one activity that I enjoy more than starting a new quilt. Want to know what it is? It’s singing! I grew up singing a cappella (vocal singing without the use of instruments) and most of my family as well as friends enjoy singing together with four part harmony. We get together in the evening and go through our song books and sing until our voices are croaking. This is such a part of my life, that I only realized about a year ago that this was the one activity that I’d choose over quilting if I had the choice on how to spend my evening!

Thanks so much to Jolene for answering all my questions - it was really interesting to learn a bit more about her (especially the singing thing - how wonderful to have something you enjoy even more than quilting!).  Make sure you pop over to Blue Elephant Stitches and check out all her amazing quilts.

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Saturday 14 June 2014

Caturday Wisdom #73

Not having to buy shoes really lets you go to town on bags. Ralph

We're back with cats this week!  Ralph likes all bags, but this one seems to be a particular favourite.  Do you have a similarly bag-obsessed cat?

Thursday 12 June 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Alison from Little Island Quilting

Today Alison from Little Island Quilting is joining me (figuratively speaking) for an interview.  Alison lives on a little island near the UK, and is an incredibly talented quilter with a very distinctive and unique style (even if she denies it!).  It is hard to describe her quilting style, but my best attempt would be ALL THE FABRICS, amazing precise piecing, careful use of values, and a large pinch of insanity (I think Alison knows me well enough now to know that I mean that in the nicest possible way).

As well as admiring Alison's quilts from a purely aesthetic stand point, I really admire the way that she makes quilts she likes, the way she wants to, and doesn't worry too much about what other people think.  She's quite forthright and her blog posts are often funny.  She's also incredibly generous, having made 36 quilts so far this year for the Soy Amado project (more on that below) and sharing her knowledge in a series of tutorials (her hand piecing tutorial is particularly interesting, although I have to confess it still hasn't tempted me away from my sewing machine!).

This is how the quilt Alison was working on in her hand piecing tutorial turned out.

So, here's Alison.  As usual, my questions are in bold and her answers are in normal text:

Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter? 
I learnt to knit, crochet and do tapestry from my mum and I continued knitting well into my 20s. She did buy some Laura Ashley precut hexagons in the 1970s and made a rather lurid (sorry mum) hexagon bed quilt but I think that actually put me off quilting at the time because I thought it was frumpy and old fashioned.

How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for? 
I was just married and living in the Netherlands and in a nearby village was a quilt shop (it's still there) with the most inviting window displays. I went in one day, got talking in Dutch to one of the sales assistants, discovered she was English (!) so we switched to our mother tongue and she said her mum gave quilt lessons and they had a space in a course coming up and I should join. So I did. I think that was 20 years ago now - yikes!

How would you describe your quilting style? 
All over the place! Not sure really. Isn't it for others to describe your style?!

Where do you find inspiration for your quilts?
Everywhere. Literally.

Do you like to follow patterns or create your own designs (or a bit of both)?
Bit of both. For something like the Camelot quilt I bought the pattern because all the complicated maths is done for you. A lot of times I look at a quilt I like and I can usually work out how the blocks are constructed so I don't buy the pattern, I just get cutting. Is that bad?!

Alison's Camelot quilt

Do you think living where you do influences the way you quilt?
Absolutely. It's a small island (population 62,000) with no quilt shop and no opportunity to get in the car and drive off up the road to meet another quilter. I buy all my quilting needs off the Internet. We are lucky in that there are no import taxes here so I buy my fabric from the US, as even with the postage factored in, it is much cheaper than the UK.

Are you a member of a local guild? 
There is no local guild. I know of a group of women who meet once a month in the evening but I am too busy providing a taxi service to our daughters so can't go. I also have a quilting friend who makes art quilts and she's in a small art quilt group which meets during the day.

Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life? 
I met my first online sewing friend for the first time last year. Leila (needleanddime on Flickr) was in a swap with me and we met in New York City and spent a day quilt shopping and chatting. She was even lovelier in person. I also met Leanne (SheCanQuilt) for a meal in London last summer when I was over with our younger daughter for the weekend. That same weekend I accidentally met Hadley/Flying Blind On A Rocket Cycle in a fabric shop. I was in there with our daughter and she walked in with a bunch of other quilt bloggers. It was very surreal because right from the beginning of starting my blog I had made a conscious decision no personal pictures. Other people have posted their pictures on their blogs so I knew it was her when she walked in. We'd struck up an Internet friendship so I thought it would be rude not to say something but I didn't want to gate crash her group. So I had a little five minute internal struggle with myself and when I spotted her looking at fabric on her own, I sidled up and said a few words! So 2 1/2 people is the sum total of my having met Internet quilting friends. Bit pathetic really!

I have to show this cushion that Alison made because it lives with meeee!

How did you decide to start your blog? 
Because I wanted to enter Amy's Blogger's Quilt Festival. I took THE most awful photo of a fairly basic quilt in terrible lighting and within an hour people had left comments. The computer was talking back to me!

What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could? 
Definitely the 'meeting' of people who get your hobby that people in real life don't get.

If I could change one thing it would be banning quilting book blog tours! I completely get that a quilt author needs to get their book out there but I'm afraid if someone's done a quilt book review and it's on a long journey with a bunch of other quilters I zone out. You know you're going to be told the same thing, that the book really is very wonderful and you really need to buy it. And the nail in the coffin for me is asking people to leave reviews on Amazon etc. I hugely admire people who are constructively honest with their opinions and don't get completely sucked into the vortex that is the well-oiled quilt marketing machine. While I appreciate some quilt bloggers are looking to make a business out of their blogging, I would like to see more transparency in their tie ups with companies.

Many newbie quilters starting out now are getting their information from the Internet. Is it fair the information they read is biased because of commercial link-ups to blogs? And what happened to constructive opinions? It seems because of these commercial tie-ins we are afraid to share our real thoughts. I don't mean being unnecessarily unkind, I mean having a different point of view to the norm and not being afraid to give or air that point of view. Surely we'll all learn something from expressing our differing views rather than all politely agreeing with each other or not saying anything at all? (Well you did ask!)

I'm pretty sure Alison was working on this quilt when I started reading her blog.  I thought omg, this lady is insane and I love it!

Your Soy Amado project is amazing - could you tell me a little bit about how you got started (and what it involves, for my readers' benefit).
We were in Mexico City over the Christmas period and to cut a long story short we visited a home for former street children to help hand out Christmas presents. You have no idea how something is going to affect you. I had given a small baby quilt but the reaction to it was so lovely. They couldn't believe someone had made something especially for them. That made me feel even more guilty because I hadn't made something especially for them: I'd taken one of my quilts that I thought was 'OK' and thought 'that will do - I've done my bit'.

But that was what we were all doing: a football team had donated some of their old football shirts (as in old design) and another company had donated some cheap clothes and toys and I just stood there and thought we were all passing on stuff we didn't really want any more - they deserved more than OK or another company's cast offs. No one had given them the best, something special just for them.

Afterwards, I talked with one of the ladies involved with supporting the home and asked her about quilts. She thought it was a good idea so I resolved to try and get a quilt on every bed.

Soy Amado No. 31 - my personal favourite, so far.

I knew I couldn't expect people to make whole quilts ( which would have been a whole lot less work for me) and it was Nicolette (Dutchcomfort) who suggested quilt blocks to me. And then the idea of quilted blocks came to me as I thought I could construct the quilts far more quickly this way.

I put a request on my blog for quilted 12 1/2" blocks and although it started quite slowly, the appeal has slowly gained momentum. I even joined Instagram so I could reach more people, having told myself a blog was enough of a time-sucker and to stay clear of IG!

I am aware though that not everyone shares my zealous enthusiasm for this project. If you're interested, since posting about the quilts, comments have dropped off from their normal levels and quite a few people who used to comment quite regularly on my blog have stopped altogether. I'm not sure if it's because they feel awkward about commenting because they haven't sent me anything or that I'm boring the pants off them. Either way, if you do something like this, don't automatically expect everyone who comments on your blog to stick their hand up and help you.

That said, I have been hugely touched by the generosity of everyone who has and am completely aware that I could not have produced the amount of quilts I have done without the support I have had. There is another delivery going in June when I should find out how many more quilts I still need to make.

A lovely pile of quilts Alison has put together for the Soy Amado project.

Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now? 
Not that many actually - maybe around 15. I give most of them away. I love giving away what I know the other person can't buy. It's a priceless, personal gift.

Do you do any crafts other than quilting? 
Nope - in between work, family life and quilting there isn't really much left over for anything else! 

Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that?
I'm going nowhere fast! It will always be a hobby. I love my day job (most of the time) with quilting as my creative release. If I think of quilting as more than a hobby then that means sewing things I don't want to with fabric I don't particularly like and that's not fun for me. There are more than enough people out there wanting to change their quilting from a hobby into a business without me joining the ever-growing queue!

Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share? 
Do what you want to do the way you want to do it. Don't follow the crowd as ultimately your creative journey will be more rewarding.

Another hand pieced beauty.

What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)? 
Everything and nothing! Possibly choosing the fabrics (the more the better) has a slight edge.

Are there any quilting techniques you haven't tried yet but that you'd like to? 
Can't think of any.

What's something about you that people might be surprised to know? 
I don't know?! What would people like to know? First person to leave a question in the comments section, I promise to give an honest answer to. How does that sound?!

Thank you so much to Alison for participating in this series, and for her full and frank answers!  I think her advice about doing what you want to do, the way you want to do it, is really great and applies whether you're just starting out or are an experienced quilter.  Pop over to Alison's blog, Little Island Quilting, and check out all the other lovely things she's made.

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Wednesday 11 June 2014

WIP Wednesday

This weekend I had real hankering to start a new project.  I feel like the only person in the quilting world who hasn't made an interlocking plus quilt.  I didn't have a colour scheme in mind so I turned to Design Seeds for inspiration.  Since it's winter here, I looked at the various palettes under the winter theme and picked these three as favourites.


I pulled some fabrics from stash and cut a lot of  4" squares (because you can cut 5 4" squares, which is how many you need to make one plus, from a 4" strip cut from a fat quarter).  I laid them out on my design wall and ummmed and ahhhhed over whether to leave the red in.

Winter Plus quilt top

As you can see, the red stayed in!  It's a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton which gives it a bit of depth and texture.

Winter Plus quilt top

This quilt top will be pretty nice and quick to quilt up,  but I haven't basted it yet because I want to use a lovely cotton waffle fabric that my Dad bought in Japan and I needed to pre-wash it first.  I'm a bit nervous about using the waffle because it's effectively a knit, but I'm hopeful that by using plenty of pins to baste and quilting really carefully, it will come out ok.  If not, I guess I can use another cat quilt!

I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced:

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

P.S. I am speaking and showing some of my quilts at the Wellington Quilter's Guild meeting tomorrow evening. If you're a reader please feel free to come and say hi - I'd love to meet you.

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Monday 9 June 2014

My new Juki TL-98P and Swiftquilter

A couple of months ago I bought a Juki TL-98P sewing machine and Swiftquilter quilting frame from Sew Frisco.  In the interests of full disclosure, I'll tell you now that I negotiated a discount on the purchase price in exchange for blog advertising and a couple of blog post reviews.  This is the first one and I'll do another review at around the 6 month mark.  As with all my reviews, I agreed to this on the basis that my review would be completely honest and mention any cons as well as pros.

So, how did I decide to buy the Juki?  I decided I needed a new sewing machine and narrowed my choice of brands down to Bernina (because that's what I had already and what I've sewn on most before), Janome (because that's what most of my real life quilting friends have, and what lots of bloggers have and recommend) and Juki (because lots of bloggers have been raving about their Jukis and I really liked the idea of a fully mechanical sewing machine because I thrash my sewing machine and I don't want it to break down).

Then I started using my Mum's Bernina 440QE, which has a stitch regulator (BSR), for free motion quilting.  BSR is really nice - it means that your stitches are a consistent length and it definitely helps when you're learning to free motion quilt.  I got hooked, and started using Mum's sewing machine every time I needed to free motion quilt something.  I decided that the BSR was so great that I HAD to get a Bernina, even though they are significantly more expensive than any other brand of machine.

To get the throat space I wanted with a Bernina, I needed to go up to the 700 series, so I started saving up for the Bernina 750QE, which retails in New Zealand for $6,999 (by comparison, a Janome 8900 QC retails in New Zealand for $5,499).  (Yes, I cry a little bit inside every time I read American sewing machine prices). And then, I needed to do some free motion quilting and I didn't have time to go around and use Mum's sewing machine.  So I used my little, basic, 25 year old Bernina which definitely does not have BSR.  And do you know what?  My stitches were still pretty consistent.  I quilted a woodgrain pattern, which I hadn't done before,  and I didn't have any issues with the quilting.  My tension was perfect.  All these things which I thought the BSR was doing for me, I was capable of doing myself.  I didn't NEED BSR.  I had just needed practice and the BSR gave me the ability do a nice job while I was still practising.  (By the way, I don't think this is something unique to me.  If you have BSR and always use it, try turning it off, just for a test.  I think you might be surprised.)

That opened up the sewing machine options for me again.  I was still interested in the Juki but unwilling to buy one sight unseen, and the only Juki dealer (Sew Frisco) is in Auckland.  When I got sent to work in Auckland for a few weeks, I decided to take the opportunity to check out a Juki for myself.  It was really really nice, and with a price of $1,995, seemed like great value for money compared to the other options.

Now, I will say in defence of the Bernina and Janome machines that they do much more than the Juki.  The Juki is straight stitch only and the Bernina and Janome machines have all kinds of stitches, and you can do embroidery, and they are computerised and basically a whole bunch more sophisticated than the Juki.  BUT, I don't use almost any of that stuff now and I couldn't see that I would use it in the future.  Basically, to get the large throat space, you have to pay for a whole lot of other stuff that you may or may not use.

Now I've had the Juki for a few weeks, and I love it.  I've used it on the quilting frame, for free motion quilting off the frame, for piecing, for straight line quilting, and to make a small bag (including installing a zip).  It has handled all of those tasks really well and is basically a joy to use.  By the way, as far as I can tell, the Juki TL-98P is exactly the same as the TL-98Q available in the US, except that it runs on New Zealand voltage.  An equivalent to the Juki TL-2010Q isn't available here, but I think the only difference is that the TL-2010Q has a speed control and the TL-98 does not.

So I thought it would be interesting to go back to my post on the sewing machine I've been using for most of my quilting life, my Bernina 802 Sport.  I made a bit of a shopping list of features I was looking for in my next machine:

- large throat space.  Check - the Juki TL-98P has 9" of space between the needle and the right hand upright.

- automatic needle down.  This is pretty much a given on all modern sewing machines, so of course the Juki has it. It's sooooo nice though!

- more speed.  The Juki definitely delivers on this.  I spent most of the time pedal to the metal on my Bernina, but I haven't even touched the top speed on the Juki yet.  From a technical perspective, it does 1500 stitches per minute.  I can confirm that it is FAST.

- knee lift. The Juki has a knee lift which works really well and even clips into the extension table when you're not using it.

One feature which wasn't on my wish list but which I really really love is the automatic thread cutter - you either hit a button on the machine or on the foot pedal and it cuts your thread for you.  Awesome.

My Bernina 802 Sport next to my Juki TL-98P

There are a couple of downsides to the Juki:

- the Juki only does one thing, straight stitch, but it does it super well.  If you are looking for a general purpose domestic sewing machine, this is not the one for you.  It doesn't have a zig zag stitch for sewing knits, or a blanket stitch for machine appliqué, or anything like that.  I'd say it's best suited to a quilter who already has one sewing machine and is looking to upgrade and get more throat space.  I was planning to keep my Bernina anyway, and I'll be using it whenever I need a zigzag stitch (I like to finish the inside seams of cushions and bags this way for durability).

- the Juki does not have a free arm.  Apart from the lack of zigzag stitch, this makes it unsuitable for sewing most garments.  It also means you'll be going back to your domestic machine for some tasks, like top-stitching around the edge of a small zipper pouch, for example.

- as far as I've been able to tell, you can't get an open toe foot for the Juki.  It would most commonly be used for non straight stitching anyway, so that makes sense, but there are times when it's nice to have a good view of the needle, like when you're sewing on the line for foundation paper piecing, or sewing on a marked line when you're quilting.  I'm going to investigate whether I can get a generic open toe foot that works on the Juki.

- it's a big heavy (11.5kg/25lb) sewing machine.  That makes it awesome to sew on but not terribly portable.  It also doesn't come with a hard cover or travel case (but of course you could buy a generic sewing machine bag if you wanted).

None of these are things which put me off the Juki or mean that I'm disappointed in it.  I just wanted to be clear that it does what it does, and it does it very well, but it doesn't do everything.


I've used the Juki with Aurifil (it takes a cone, yay) and with Guterman cotton quilting thread and it's handled both of them perfectly.  For free motion quilting I've stuck to the 90/14 and 100/16 Organ needles that came with the machine, but for piecing I've used Schmetz 80/12 Microtex Sharp needles with great success.  I'll continue to experiment with different needles for different applications, but when I'm using the Juki on the Swiftquilter frame, I've discovered that I really do need to stick with the heavier 100/16 needles (after breaking two 90/14 needles in quick succession).

So far I've pretty much stuck to a description of the sewing machine as used in the way that most people would use it - without the Swiftquilter frame.  Even if you're not interested in a frame, it's still a really great machine and I would definitely recommend it.

So, the Swiftquilter frame.  Basically, it's a set up which includes a moving platform that you sit the sewing machine on, a frame with leaders and enders to stretch the quilt out on, so you free motion quilt by moving the sewing machine and not the quilt.  I bought it because I find normal free motion quilting, where you move the quilt under the needle, very hard on my hands, my neck and my shoulders.  I want to do more free motion quilting but I don't because I can't spend too much time doing it or I end up unable to turn my head.

You sit the frame on a table (I had a special extra tall one made so that the controls are at a comfortable height to use when standing and also so I can see where I'm stitching.  The optimal height for your table will depend on your height.)  The basic frame is 72" wide, and the bit that sits on the table is 23" deep.  The frame overhangs the table so in total it is 34" deep.  The highest point of the frame will sit 11" above the table top, and the part which the quilt sits on is 8" above the table top.  Even though the basic frame is 72" wide, really the widest quilt you can quilt on it is 50" wide.  That's because you need extra room at the sides for the platform that the sewing machine sits on.

The Swiftquilter frame, on my extra tall table.

The frame also comes with an extension, which takes its total width out to 108".  I haven't used the extension yet (and to be honest I'll need to measure to check that my sewing room is even 108" wide!) but hopefully I'll have given it a try by the time my next review rolls around.

I really like the way the platform that the sewing machine sits on moves.  It moves smoothly and freely, but it's got a bit of weight to it (mostly the sewing machine, I guess), which makes it easier (for me, anyway), than something which moves really really easily (I've used long-arms which move at the slightest touch and I found them really hard to control).

I found the frame easy to assemble with the help of the assembly video on Sew Frisco's website.  I did it by myself so it's not like its a two person job or anything like that.  I do quite enjoy assembling flat pack furniture though, so if you absolutely hate things like that you may not enjoy putting the frame together but I still don't think you'd find it difficult.  I know some people disassemble their frames and put them away when they're not using them, but I'm leaving mine up all the time.

The frame can conceptually be used with any large throat sewing machine, but it's recommended for use with Juki TL-98P.  As you'll see if you watch the video, it comes with a handle that screws onto the machine which has controls which plug in so you can control the machine from the handle (no foot pedal needed).

With a lot of help from my sister, I made a video which explains how I load a quilt onto the frame and set it up for quilting.  Hopefully it will give you a good sense of how the frame works, because it would be quite hard to describe in a meaningful way in writing.

Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for the actions of my eyebrows in this video!

Ok well I hope you enjoyed the video (or at least had a good laugh)!

If there is anything else you want to know about the Juki and/or the Swiftquilter, let me know and I'll try to answer your question.

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Saturday 7 June 2014

Caturday Wisdom #72

It's ok to look sheepish when you're wearing this much wool. Whiskey

Masquerading as a cat again, Whiskey is modelling a pair of socks knitted for my lucky brother. Lucky because Mum didn't take one look at his huge feet and say "Nope."

Friday 6 June 2014

Craftsy Sale

Hello lovely readers. Just a quick post to let you know that Craftsy is having a big sale this weekend, with up to 50% off all classes.


It's been a while since I last did a Craftsy class, but I'm going to treat myself to a new one while they're on sale. My friend Alison from Little Island Quilting has a bit of a quilter's crush on Ann Petersen and highly recommended her classes. Since I have a bit of experience with free motion quilting, but am looking to improve my skills, I'm going to give Ann Petersen's Beyond Basic Machine Quilting Class a go!

Online Quilting Class

Completely unrelated to the Craftsy sale but something I wanted to mention - I've been getting quite a few comments from no-reply bloggers lately, particularly ones asking me questions. I am pretty much always happy to answer questions, but if you're a no-reply blogger I can't respond! Please please if you have left me a question and I haven't responded, click on the button below and check whether you're a no-reply blogger.

How to stop being a no-reply blogger

Happy Friday - I hope you have a great weekend! I'll be keeping out of the winter weather and quilting up a storm.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

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