Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fabric confessions

I must confess. I have been shopping this summer. A lot. My sister and I just went on a short trip at the beginning of my holidays. It involved among other things a visit to two quilt shops (of course - that's the first thing one looks for in a new place, right?) and then I spent the rest of my time off at home. Hence the great surge of activity - Olympic quilting and the Sunflower quilt, etc. But, there is always the lure of the internet....
Not that I'm blaming anyone, but blogging is becoming an expensive pastime... No sooner do I find myself at somebody's beautiful blog reading about the fabric they design, or use, than I find myself browsing online stores... This summer I have been eagerly reminding myself of how much money I have saved by not going anywhere fancy on holiday, so some fabric purchases are just the kind of thing I deserve, right? It's beeing downright thrifty, because of all the airfare saved, even if the fabric is new...

I hadn't realized how much of it there was already, and I'm still waiting for some Farmer's Market on backorder, so there is no doubt that I might soon apply for a black belt in fabric shopping... So let's have a closer look, shall we?
Some lovely brights by Anna Maria Horner (the one in the upper right hand corner is actually just the center of a HUGE flower!), Kaffe Fassett and Heather Bailey.

Amy Butler and Sandie Henderson could be best friends, these pink and green florals seem to belong together.

Some Ava Rose and coordinating stripe. I'm not to be blamed for these actually - they are for my sister, who fell head over heels in love with a quilt pattern and wants me to make a quilt in those exact fabrics. Luckily (because there's a lot of stitchery on it) she only wants a small wallhanging, not the lap sized one in the pattern - I will get around to it eventually, I suppose...

These two Alexander Henry fabrics were just too sweet to resist. I have some freestyle quilting in mind for the light blue background of the apple and pears one to make the fruit really stand out.

Red and white is always right - the solid one is corduroy - for a bag, I think. And a blue and white polka dot will always come in handy...
That floral with the orange background gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, and I had to find some more oranges to go with it in case I didn't have any in my stash... My mother exclaimed when she saw it that my gran had an apron just like that when she was a child, so that might explain my wave of nostalgia - no doubt it was hanging around somewhere in her little house in the country when I was little. Not that I need any justification for my purchases, don't get the idea that I'm beating up on myself here, because I have been having a lot of fun shopping! Now I just need to come up with some new projects to use them in.
I have some ideas already...

And I'm not just idly stroking my new fabrics - I'm about to watch a good movie while stitching the binding to my Olympic quilt. There will be pictures...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

And the winner is...


For her warm and cheery character, swirly personality and ability to bind the other members of the crew together, creating a cohesive whole.

At least that's what I hope will happen. I brought the Sunflower Quilt to the quilt shop yesterday and we laid it out on the floor and tried out numerous bolt of different colours and shades. Each and every passing customer was drawn in to have their say, great fun was had by all, and eventually we settled on this red fabric. It has the swirly pattern of the red Bali I tried out earlier, without the purple bits. I tried various yellows, but with such a wide border (6 1/2") it just became too dominant, so red it is.

But first, there will be some more quilting on this, hopefully finishing later today. The closing ceremony has started, and I didn't reach my goal of watching it while hand stitching the binding, but I'm not very far from the finishing line...

Friday, August 22, 2008

So where did the week go?

Monday it was back to work again and boy has it been hard! I returned to a full mail box and a lot of stuff to deal with, so at least the first week went really fast, but there has been little time or, let's face it: energy, left for quilting. The last couple of weeks I have seemed to be able to whizz through one sewing project after another: two new quilt tops, a bag and two sets of new curtains (none of them for me, yet...), but this week, just a little half-hearted quilting.

It didn't actually help that my sewing machine started to act up. No sooner had I left some well-meant advice for Lily about cleaning sewing machines (as if I'm an expert...), and read about Kathy's machine problems, before my own started giving me grief (something going around, perhaps). In came the q-tips and the hoover, all loose parts were removed before all the dust and grime was removed. Oil was added, new needle, tension disks cleaned - all the tricks of the trade (at least the ones I know about...) but the thread kept breaking. OK. Too small a needle, perhaps? Change of needle. Thread broke again. Well, this was a quilting thread I had had for a while - maybe it was too old? Out and get some new thread. A yard-long seam - oh, this is going well! No. Thread broke again. A new round of cleaning and re threading. New attempt. The thread got shredded in the tension disk area. Turned tension way down, then back up again. Re threaded the machine and started sewing again while holding my breath. One long seam. OK. Another. OK. Gradually I let my shoulders down and started breathing normally again. So today I did actually manage to get all the green strips quilted with parallel seams. The mystery of the sewing machine...

- I don't know what happened, but some speck of dust causing trouble, I expect. Or maybe the machine heard me muttering about having it replaced...
Anyhow, I'm on my way now, and tomorrow I'll do the flowery areas with some kind of swirly pattern. The more I've been working on this Olympic quilt the more I keep thinking of a swimming pool with marked lanes for the contestants, so maybe I should change the name to "Swimming in Flowers", "Pool of flowers" or something like that?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The jury's still out

Thank you for all the input on borders for my Sunflower Quilt. I'm still thinking, but at least there's an elimination-process going on in my mind... I tried the polka-dot, Tine, but with all the other things going on in the blocks, it just made me dizzy, so that's out. The green is out too, because it seems to throw a greenish hue onto all the other colours, and that slightly sea-sick look is not the one I'm going for. The darkest blue (which I thought was a safe bet...) seems too harsh, and the light yellow too bland. So we're down to dark turquoise (#3), red (#5 or 6) or a warm yellow (#8). Most of you seem to favour the slightly faded red with the scroll-pattern, and while I have enough of that one for the borders, I don't think that's the actual fabric I will go for. The picture shows only part of it, so you don't see that the background has areas of purple in it, and that doesn't go well with anything at all in this quilt, I think. You can see the beginning of such an area at the bottom of this picture.
But I could definitely go for a red border, I just have to find the actual fabric. The warm yellow is a Fossil Fern which really warms the rest of the colours up a bit, so I am leaning slightly towards that one (and I know where I can get more of that particular fabric, which helps...).
I had a friend over on Friday for a "Sew-In" - in protest to her husband's preoccupation with the Olympics, she brought her sewing machine and we spent the day sewing happily away in my kitchen. We had a lovely time, and a very nice salad for lunch (beef, pears and walnuts among other things...) and we had a look at my quilt. She stated that the red was too obvious a choice for the border, and favoured the warm yellow one, but she also thought I should use the dark turquoise for binding, and that's not going to happen! So, different opinions all around, and the final choice will be mine, but I'm leaving it for a couple of days - I still have some work to do on my Olympic Quilt, and at least I know where I'm going with that one :-)

They must be in the midst of wrapping up at The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham now, and I see the photos are beginning to appear in Flickr, so let's get some inspiration there. I'm sorry to have missed it this year, but I'm definitely going next year!

Friday, August 15, 2008


Originally uploaded by crafty mathea
Well, eight hopefuls have suggested they be tried out and I'll be interested in knowing what everybody thinks! - Have a look in Flickr by clicking on this picture. Bear in mind that it is the right colour I'm looking for, not the actual fabric, because I haven't got enough of any of these (except this red one) to actually use for borders.
I have no babies here, so feel free to say what you think :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

- well, maybe not so much with the picture as with the pictured quilt, I suppose. Looks slightly curved, right? It was. Not just slightly, but extremely! Usually when sewing strips together I measure, mark with pins on both pieces, match up the pins and sew - to the amazement of some of my quilting friends: "you have a Pfaff with dual feed - it pulls top and bottom layers along at the same speed, so there will be no stretching anyway, so there's no need to pin", they kept telling me. Not true.
For once I decided to silence that inner voice whispering "pin, pin, pin" and just stitched my strips happily together, just trimming the bottom after I had finished stitching. When I put the finished (I thought) top on the floor for a photoshoot, I noticed it didn't look quite right, but I just thought I hadn't ironed it properly. When I picked it up and tried to fold it, however, I knew I was in trouble. One side was definitely longer than the other. Much longer. 8 inches longer. Yes, it's true! I had thought that there might be a slight pulling out of shape here, but 8 inches??? I measured again, with the same result. Back to the drawing board, or rather, get the seam ripper! Sigh. But it had to be done.
So that's what I was busy doing yesterday. I ripped all the long seams, measured each and every strip, recut, marked with pins, pinned to the previous strip and stitched again. Not the most exciting job I've ever had, but it had to be done! So here we are. Much happier now, and I have learned my lesson. I'll remember to listen to that inner voice in future. Measure twice, cut once, and all that... I do realize that my problem was not due to a faulty dual feed. But when sewing narrow strips like that together it is inevitable that they get pulled a bit too much before going under that dual feed. But, never mind (I wasn't quite so easygoing about it yesterday - you might have learned a few new words...), I'm back in the right lane again now, and can say yet again that it is going swimmingly...
I'll be back with auditions for the Sunflower Quilt tomorrow - I'll be grateful for some input on that one!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Any suggestions?

As I mentioned yesterday, I've almost finished the top of the Sunflower quilt, and here's the picture to prove it. It is really big, so it was difficult to find a place for a photo shoot, but you see most of it. It just needs those two side borders now and the top is done. Somehow, the back of my mind has decided that those borders should be a dark blue, but I'm open to other suggestions. The blue would go with the dark blue in the batik used on the edges of this block. I could also use a dark turquoise - (darker than the fabric with the white circles).
I've also auditioned a red, and that might work, or be too loud, depending on the shade, or maybe a green? I'm thinking that it needs to be a "quiet" fabric without a lot of pattern going on, because the rest of the quilt is rather busy, but I might be wrong... It will have to wait a while anyway, because I have nothing suitable in my stash to cut 6" borders + binding from (or the binding could be a different colour, I suppose...). So you see I have more questions then answers at the moment, so I'll just leave it to marinate for a few days, while I continue on the olympic quilt. I was going to work on that today, but good sister that I am (occasionally..) I made new curtains for my eldest sister's kitchen instead 0:-)<

Monday, August 11, 2008

Going swimmingly

Just a few more laps, and the top is done. I've been wondering about how many sports cliches I could cram into a post - how many hurdles to finish, a marathon of stitching, and so on, but I'll spare you :-)

I found a dark blue with black flowers in my stash that will be a good backing for this, so I should be able to layer it tomorrow.
I have also finished stitching the blocks together on my Sunflower quilt, but have yet to take a picture. It still needs a couple of borders, and I have been trying out a few different colours, but haven't found the right fabric yet, so I might need to go shopping... In my mind it needs a dark blue border, but I will post a picture and maybe get a second opinion on that. Anyway, my stash only holds small pieces of all the fabrics I think might work, and with 6 1/2" borders I will need a lot of fabric. Hmmm, and I have placed a few fabric orders already... - Well I didn't go far for my holidays this year, think of all the money I saved... ;-)

Friday, August 08, 2008

First cut

The Olympic flame has been lit, and the sparks are flying from my rotary cutter... The first 6" strips for my new quilt has been cut, crosscut and the stitching has begun. You might think that an easy pattern like this is not enough of a challenge, but remember that there is also a backing to be made, assembly of the top and of course the quilting. While watching the opening ceremony, I noticed a recurring spiral-pattern, on the scroll in the arena, on the torches and other places as well - like a quilting pattern... Hm, maybe that's what I'll do? I'll have my work cut out for me then, for sure. We'll see - first things first, I need to cut more strips!

And don't worry, I haven't abandoned my Sunflower Quilt! I finished all the blocks today, so now I'll have to decide on the placement before I start piecing them together. I fully intend to put some work in on both quilts during the next couple of days - it's a good thing I still have a week off from work!

Quilting Olympics

Let the Games begin! The Quilting Olympics I mean. Read all about it at Going to Pieces. This is just my suggestion for a button for now.
Added later: I'm happy to announce that the button has become the official one - so feel free to copy it ( in the size you prefer), save it to your own computer and post it in your sidebar to show you are taking part.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sunflower blocks

So I have started on the Sunflower quilt - which is what it will be called from now on. There are only glimpses of sunflowers in these blocks, but the sunflower fabric giving the quilt it's name is cut in 18 1/2" squares ready to go in between these courthouse step blocks.

It's raining heavily today, so my pictures seem to be getting that underwater feeling, with colours seeming colder than they actually are. But you get the idea. I made the first blocks, choosing fabrics randomly, just alternating light and dark strips but I wasn't quite happy with them. Back to the book, to study the pictures. I discovered that the blocks I liked the most had at least one fabric being repeated throughout the block, like I've done with the blue in the block above.
I find I like these much more, because the repetition gives some kind of rythm to it. The first two are just too random I think, but I'm counting on them working together with the rest of the blocks anyway.So, that's it, I finished five blocks yesterday, in between chores and all, so it doesn't really take that much time. I'll see if I can finish the final six today, so I'm ready for the Quilting Olympics by the time the opening ceremony starts tomorrow. Diane has suggested we challenge ourselves to start and finish a piece of work within the timeframe of the Olympics, and I'm ready to take on the challenge with my floral strippy. Care to join? What will you make? Oh, glorious summer, how great it is to have time to sew! It almost doesn't matter that it is raining...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Buttons, buttons

I promise I won't be going on and on about these buttons, but here is one last look before they get tucked away. I had a brainwave about how to clean them the other night as I was preparing dinner: the salad spinner! It's like a little washing machine with it's own spin cycle and all! I just poured the buttons into the basket, filled the bowl with water and washing-up liquid and plunged the basket in. Some agitating by hand and a few spins with the lid on, a couple of changes of water and a thorough rinsing to finish them off and that's it. I spread them all on a towel in the sun to dry off before I had a proper look at them. Not surprisingly there are a lot of black, white and brown ones, but also some really nice bright coloured ones, like the round green ones that look like little peas - my mum remembered them from a blouse my gran had. She also recognized several from outfits she had worn in the 50s and 60s, so there's a bit of family history in there too. It will be fun to find some use for these. I remember seeing a quilt with rows of buttons around the border and in the sashing - maybe something like that? I would need a rather sturdy batting or backing though, because it would be very heavy. Well, we'll see.
I thought I'd spend some time sewing today, but before I'm off I thought I'd show you my attempts at making fabricpaper, inspired by this book by Beryl Taylor. I've been having a bit of fun experimenting with this technique. What you do is that you brush a piece of muslin with a 50/50 solution of PVA-glue and water, place pieces of pretty paper on it, more glue and then cover it all with a layer of tissue paper before you add paint or ink - all when it is still wet.
When it's dry, you can use it as part of a quilt, to make cards or whatever. These were my first attempts, and I might have been a bit heavyhanded on the glue side, because it is a bit stiff (but I don't really know what it is going to be like, though - do I? ) On the green piece I should have diluted the paint more, because you can't really more than glimpse the papers through the paint, so it was a bit dull at first. I added some stamped motifs once it was dry, and I must say I like it better after I did.
On the peachy piece I added more water, and here you can glimpse the pieces of old maps and floorplans of the V&A through the paper. I really like the effect, and I'm going to try stitching through it and see what it is like to work with. As if I didn't have enough plans for things to make already! But you know us girls, we just wanna have fun!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hidden treasure?

I've been to see my uncle. He has finally got round to sorting out my aunt's stuff after her death a year ago, and look what he found!
My sweet, lovely aunt was a seamstress and spent all her life designing, sewing, repairing and re-fashioning garments for other people. I'm sure it is due to her that I developed an interest in sewing. I remember sitting by her feet playing with scraps of fabric and buttons while her sewing machine was purring on the table above. As I was growing up she always took a great interest in my sewing projects, so naturally one of the first big quilts I made was for her, and it was greatly appreciated.
So when my uncle placed a big bucket of buttons on the table and asked if this was something I could use, it really brought back some happy memories of time spent with my aunt.
At first glimpse it didn't look all that promising, but poking around inside brought some gems to the surface,
and maybe some more...
There are buttons in all colours and some of them look quite old. I will really have fun sorting through these, but first of all they could do with a little bath to rinse off dust and grime from years of handling.
I can't wait to see what treasures might hide at the bottom of the bucket... Now if only they could talk: think of all the stories they could tell of fine garments they had belonged to, parties they had attended, or maybe tales of woe, having been discarded as too plain and been replaced by fancier types. Or humble tales of ordinary button-lives dutifully serving their purpose and being relied upon to hold up a stocking or a skirt or to hold a shirt front together, preserving it's wearer's modesty.
Now let's see if I can find ways of giving them their day in the sun again, be it useful or decorative. Any suggestions?