Tuesday 31 March 2015

Lily Rose: Starting to Quilt

I've decided on simple, elegant quilting lines for Lily Rose. I've pulled out my trusty old Brother Nouvelle because using my Bernina 820 is too stressful. 

As for the Brother, I actually had it for sale on Gumtree as I am trying to downsize and 'let go' of my (good but no longer useful to me) machines, but it's such a great workhorse that I've decided I can't let it go just yet. 

I have 11 sewing machines and I've reached a stage in my life where this is not useful to me anymore. I'm too spoiled for choice and find that I don't use any of them anywhere near enough. There are some machines I will have forever - like my Bernina 440 and my 1950's Elna which is nearly as old as I am! I wonder sometimes if my Elna will outlive me. It probably will you know. This is the only machine I have owned that can stitch canvas to silk without missing a beat. They just don't make them like that anymore. This reminds me that I'll have to take a photo of it and stick it up here as a 'hall of fame' machine for everyone to see for themselves. It really is one of those legendary machines!

With 1500 stitches a minute, I'm in love with the Brother over again! And I'm confident that I'll be able to domestic machine quilt Lily Rose without any hassle. 

Many of you know that I have experienced unacceptable issues with my Bernina 820 and I can tell you that Bernina have contacted me regarding this matter with a view to repairing this machine for me. They would have collected it already, but due to my workshop, teaching and travel schedule this wasn't possible on my end - so I'm looking forward to having my 820 remedied after April.

Today, I am doubly focused - I'm on a strict deadline and have to make progress or else I won't have Lily Rose ready in time. 
I'll keep you posted...

Monday 30 March 2015

Lily Rose: Getting Ready for Quilting

Yesterday I had a quiet afternoon and decided it was time to take the plunge with washing Lily Rose. I had concerns with further colour leaking in the wash from the batiks I hadn't colour tested and after salvaging the fabric from one disaster, I have been worried about 'ghosting' from the stain.

I have Synthrapol in my cupboard from my hand dyeing days. When I had my Lily Rose disaster and blogged about it back in February, I was reminded of how useful it could be. Speaking of colour run disasters, Vicki Welsh shared her blog over in those comments, she has a 'save my bleeding quilt' area that is full of useful info and I have added her button to my sidebar now. I recommend reading the info for the sake of it, just so you have that knowledge in case you ever need to use it. I did have a lot more working knowledge regarding dyeing back when I was doing it frequently, about 12 years ago now, but it's a case of out of sight, out of mind for me!

I'm relived that Lily Rose is fine and now that it's dried and ironed, its ready for squaring up as I prepare for quilting. I always say, 'quilting is what makes a quilt, a quilt'and its much the same with a wall hanging. Today as I prepare Lily Rose, I'm already thinking about shapes and lines that will be useful as I quilt. 
Looking over Lily Rose, I'm really happy with the colour balance in the patchwork and overall generally. I love the pop of the aqua and the gold and the bouquet is just right in my own opinion. So I'm thinking of completely neutral quilting in a neutral thread colour as I want to quilt and bring out the quilt itself, rather than the quilting.
Because of the oval shape in the centre, I'm feeling that the oval will need more concentrated lines to keep the shape nice. I get this feeling because the fabric I used from my stash in the gold was a little lighter than I would have liked ideally and I did go ahead and add some extra batting to plump out the frame too.
I measure precisely, clipping as I go to get everything neat and lined up. Ideally, I would love to have this quilt basted for me, but it's quite expensive for what is an easy task for me, especially at this size. I would really love to have all my quilts basted prior to quilting, but the cost often doesn't justify the means. I find that with my larger quilts, I find this process much more time consuming and physically involved, but with Lily Rose, I can make do on my table.
I was really excited when I first purchased these 'pins' a few years ago (4? 5? years ago now?) but really haven't found them to be useful to me at all. In the beginning I though they were great and I also thought they would cut down on my pinning time. To be honest, they get in the way. It's just the way I work and do things, I find them to be more trouble than assistance for me because of my own pinning style and they only come in handy with smaller wall hangings and projects, so this has been the first time I've seen and used them in quite a while.

I'd love to know if anyone else uses them. How do you find them?
  stitches in, ready for quilting 
I'm not even considering using my Bernina 820 to quilt Lily Rose. This year has been non stop hectic for me and I have a deadline for quilting Lily Rose, I physically do not have the time to deal with issues. For me, a lost afternoon can be the difference between showing this quilt - or not. So I'm not taking any chances. I have pulled out my old Brother and will be quilting with that machine this week.

Friday 27 March 2015

Sewing Into The Weekend

This is how my family sees me most evenings at the moment; hunched in the corner with my 'daylight' lamp, sewing the night away. As you can see, I have set up a little sewing bar stool 'station' of my essentials.

The nights are getting cooler and usually at this time of year, I think about my yearly winter knitting or crochet project. This year I won't be making anything up with wonderfully warm wool as I am having one of my busiest years yet - volunteering, teaching and a revival in stencil workshops has seen me so busy that I simply don't even have my evenings free anymore to think about crochet.

Luckily, I have a sidebar full of bloggers who are knitting or hooking away and I am living my yearly project ideas through their talent and creativity. Sometimes when I am sewing away here in the evenings, I think about how far I've come, internet wise. I would never have believed 20 years ago that I would have quilting friends throughout the world and be part of an online blogging quilting group either. Its really wonderful to see how small our creative worlds are and how easily connected they are these days. What a great time to be creative in...

Wednesday 25 March 2015

WOW: LE2 Progress

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays 
When I designed my AQC Love Entwined workshop, LE2, I thought I'd have plenty of time to get all that hand sewing done and down. And I suppose I don't have to tell you what happened next? That's right, time ran away with all my good intentions and planning! Somehow I am still hand sewing my top in all the spare time I have. I don't think I have ever done so much hand sewing ever! It's intense. Any yet, as with anything associated with Love Entwined, its somehow also addictive and I just keep on going.

I've made a lot of progress and the end is finally in sight. I have about 100 hours left of hand sewing on this top to go.

As you can see from the picture above, I am working on a whole cloth which I created by joining several pieces of fabric together as I couldn't find a whole cloth big enough in the fabric I wanted. You can barely see the join in real life with the eye, but somehow the camera really picks it up in this image. And here is the back, all my neat small hand sewn stitched. I have a renewed enthusiasm for everything Love Entwined at the moment and have already heard from a few of my AQC students. I'm really looking forward to our workshop together and know that it will be 'time' in no time.
Can you believe it's already March? Almost Easter? The year is marching on! As for me, today I will be hand sewing and hopefully I'll get in a good 10 hours before my fingers demand I stop.

What's Your WOW ?

Tuesday 24 March 2015

My Tinkering Bag

Earlier this year I started volunteering in a young women's sewing group. They're interested in basics like hemming, using different sewing machines and decor projects like cushions and curtains. I've had a lot of fun teaching them what I know and although I haven't made quilters of them yet - I've got the rest of the year to accomplish that!

What I've found most interesting so far has been seeing how they purchase fabrics (and what influences them to do so) and learning about what captivates their interests. I'm a quilter and am in somewhat of a quilting 'loop' so I'm fascinated to see first hand how new sewers are approaching 'sewing'. All of them are taking their sewing cues from Pinterest which I find really interesting. And through Pinterest they came across Craftsy and through Craftsy they each purchased a pattern for making a kind of utility bag. I've been teaching them how to follow patterns and make up these bags, but don't have a pattern myself. So, when making LE gets too much for my fingers, I've been playing around with my own version. I've been tinkering around with it for a few weeks now and am almost finished.

I'm working by eye, so mine isn't exactly 'right' but its perfect for me and I'm adjusting it to suit my 'portable' sewing needs as I've never found a carry along bag that does. Thinking about it, I don't know what took me so long to come up with the motivation to make my own! Finally I can make compartments with zips - plenty of zips!
Any opportunity to raid my stash is a good opportunity!
My tinkering bag needs a collapsible 'bin' that can safely hold threads and broken needles ( I am finding that many needles are breaking mid use and I really wonder what that is about? dropping quality?) before I can dispose of them safely. And of course, my lid is an impromptu pin cushion! You can never have too many pins when you're hand sewing!
Afterwards, it twists down nice and small for packing away.
Now I just have to create my outer cover and add some handles and probably a top zip too.Until now I've been using smaller bags kept in a larger bag and rummaging through them whenever I need to take my teaching tools anywhere - it's too messy. As for this new style, I hope to get it done today. I'm finding that I need to take me sewing around with me more and more and it's about time I had a tinkering bag all of my own!

Saturday 21 March 2015

FREE Pattern: Oma's Easter is launched

This year I've been thinking about Oma's Blues a lot. I have my blue stash at the ready and although I haven't started my own Oma yet, I'm getting such a kick from seeing everyone else makes theirs - its always on my mind!

Thanks so much to everyone who is sharing their progress and images over in the Yahoo Group, I really love seeing what you do and its almost as good as making my own - I get all the eye candy without any of the hard work. For the time being, anyway :)

You know I love to release an Easter project each year and this year is no different. I've designed an 18 x 14 inch wall hanging (mine will go on our kitchen door, its the perfect size) and I've styled it in Oma style to fit right in with Oma's Blues (when I eventually have my own hanging in our dining room). I love these two bunnies. There's a boy and a girl here meeting up over a delft inspired egg nestled beneath a folk heart. The cornices are a styled return to Oma and I like the delft-ish feel so much that I feel a cushion coming on....perhaps an early Christmas project? Time will tell...

I'm really happy to share my own Easter project with you again this year and can't wait to see how you make and style your own. 

I opted for blue and white as this is the stash I'm busting in 2015, but I couldn't help going wild with colour and here's my bright spring version:
This pattern is available for free over in my Facebook Bom Group and suits all applique styles. To be really fast, I'm thinking of making mine with fusible and will blog it during the week when I do, so stay tuned...

Oma's Blues is my current free BOM. You can download it for free over in the files area of my Facebook Oma's Blues BOM Group. Oma's Easter is the Oma's Blues Easter project for 2015 and will be available for free until Easter.

Friday 20 March 2015

How I Make Ironing Matts

I thought everyone had an ironing matt?
I love being able to iron on the spot and I find that it makes workshops all the smoother when you aren't waiting for your turn at the ironing board. When I'm sewing at home, (if I have the space) these matts mean I can make an ironing station right next to my sewing machine so I don't have to go and use the ironing board in between stitching - great if you've got a WIP pile like mine.

I don't really know what to call them - ironing boards, mobile ironing matts, table top ironing protectors? I thought everyone had these (apart from new quilters in workshops) so I was surprised that any of you were interested in seeing more of mine. Basically they allow me to iron on a table without the heat transferring through to the table or surface below. The matt is usable on both sides if you use a firm canvas fabric on the bottom layer. It's such a handy thing to have and it makes any area a perfect ironing spot!

Teflon pressing sheet
Double layered 100% wool batting (I've used Matilda's Own)
Canvas (or thick cotton). I used fusible canvas - it's usually used on men's shirt collars, this fabric is extra strong and has the added bonus of having a fusible side. This is what I used. You could use canvas instead which I do recommend.
Liquid stitch glue

I press the canvas to 1 layer of the wool batting. This canvas is my underside. Then, I apply liquid stitch glue to the batting and position another later of batting on top of that ( a double later of wool batting). Using glue simply prevents it all from shifting around. Next I lightly add some glue on the top of the batting sandwich and add the Teflon fabric - this is the top non stick surface. Teflon fabric does not have a fusible layer and this is why I glued it down lightly to the batting, then ironed it into position. Once set, I stitch my 'sandwich' together. On the top edge only with a simple straight stitch. I also add a hanging loop for easy storage. I have not over locked the edges simply because I don't want any indents showing through if I iron something delicate.

With my left over fabric, I also made an additional seam presser which is simply rolled up wool batting enclosed in the Teflon fabric - super handy. Mine is inches long by 2 inch wide and I find it super versatile.

This is the Teflon fabric, I purchased mine from a specialty store about 10 years ago now.
This is the bottom layer side. I ironed my stiff fusible cotton to the batting, this is the underside
Now I glue to top of the batting (the cotton is the bottom) and add another later of wool batting
Lastly I add my Teflon top layer of fabric. The Teflon fabric I have is not fusible, so I need the glue to keep it all neatly in place.
Then I simply ironed it all down firmly before simply stitching it together at the edge seam.
 with my leftover Teflon fabric, I made a roll for ironing seams 
 and added a loop for easy hanging
You can purchase Teflon fabric at some specialty fabric stores, and this is what I did. The only online seller offering Teflon that I have been able to find is Valerie Hearder who is in Canada. Here is a link to her supply shop area. 

If you make this ironing matt, please test it before using it on your table surface. If you need to, you can increase the wool batting layer. And if you're really worried about a table surface you can opt for a wad of newspaper to go underneath your matt when using it. Personally I have found this version to work perfectly for me and protect all the table surfaces it has been used on - but I can't guarantee any one else s experience owing to variations on fabrics and battings, so please test first.

What do you think? Do you have one? 
How did you make yours?

Wednesday 18 March 2015

WOW: Making Iron Table Covers

WOW = WIPs On Wednesday
I've somehow found myself volunteering twice a week. Both for very good purposes and so rewarding but somehow always overlapping with my suddenly regular art workshops. Just when I thought I would stop workshops for a year or two, I've found myself booked week after week. It always strikes me as strange how that happens!

Anyhow, along the way of my workshops and classes I've somehow 'lost' 20x workshop tabletop iron covers. I make these so students can iron right at their table and I used to have 30 but have found myself with just 10. Where have I misplaced my missing 20 x ? Who knows. Lucky I checked before packing my car the night before a class because this means I have enough time to make up some extra today in preparation for my upcoming workshops, including AQC in April. That's less than a month away now. How exciting! I can't wait to be in a LE mood all over again. I'm really looking forward to sharing my enthusiasm with a whole new set of people!
What's Your WOW?

Sunday 15 March 2015

FREE BOM: Oma's Blues Part 3 is Launched

Luckily I looked at my phone today as it reminded me today was the 15th! Yes, it seems I lost track of time. Where is March getting to so quickly? I can't believe it's already time for Part 3 of Oma's Blues ( I feel like I just launched it last week) and now its already time for Part 3 and according to my quilting schedule, time for me to release my Easter 2015 project too!

Phew! What a week its going to be. Can't wait to show you more on Monday...or perhaps Tuesday...let's see what I can manage!

This month we are working on the star - tulip-house-apple and heart charms. I love all the charms and I'm really excited to see how you make them all with your own style and flourishes. 

Oma's Blues is my free current BOM. It's available to members of my Yahoo BOM Group. To read more about this design, check out my 'Oma's Blues Page' at the top of this blog, We are now up to Part 3. It's not too late to join in - all parts are still available for you to download for free.

Friday 13 March 2015

The Joy of Volunteering

2015 is turning out to be one of those years. In a good way. A good and very busy way. At times I don't know whether I'm coming or going and catching up on missed calls and emails makes me wonder if it wouldn't be easier to just unplug my phone? March has come in a whirlwind and I keep pinching myself when I consider that AQC really is just around the corner now.

Yesterday I started volunteering sewing skills at a local school. It's been many years since I taught young children to sew and the the enthusiasm and determination they showed was really contagious. I just loved it. I've also started volunteering in a local women's group - just essential sewing and pattern skills right now, but you never know, I might make some quilters out of them yet!
Aren't these just great?! Such an achievement for beginners- these kids just loved making their own felt critters and really focused on stitching all the way around these shapes, I'm so proud of them.And I'm really impressed with their positive attitude too. Both the girls and boys really did so well. Just being around them recharged my battery. 

These days, in order to volunteer in a school setting you need a special working with children safety check. Here is a lone photo of me helping one of the children along, I had a little queue at my 'station' here but for privacy reasons, I've cropped them all out as I don't want to possibly  upset anyone or infringe on their privacy rights. When my own children were young it was normal to take photos of them with and around teachers and strangers in settings such as this one. My own caution reminds me just how much the world has changed since my own children were young and, most dramatically, since I was a child myself. I understand completely why these measures are in place now and I am in no way criticizing them -in fact I recognize that they are sorely needed. It's just that this recognition makes me feel a bit sad for society. Still, I do believe in doing what you can and it's been a real treat for me to share my passion for sewing skills with young people. 
And that's got me thinking about how to keep them engaged in sewing in a relevant and fun way. When I learnt to sew, it was all hard work and repetition but children are much too savvy for any of that these days! Luckily my DD who is a teacher now, is full of resources and has even set me up with a children's sewing inspirations Pinterest board. All I have to do now is work out how to import it into my own Pinning stream! So far I'm feeling the enthusiasm and just need to find some plastic sheets with perforation holes at a good price. I got really lucky with these felt critter packs - they were on sale at Spotlight and the special was that you when you buy 2x you get 1 x for free. A nice perk when you're stocking up for classes like this one. 
Goodness, its been such a long time since I received thank you letters. I think the last one must have been when my eldest DD was a Girl Guide.
Today I'm re-washing Lily Rose so that I can move on to quilting it next week. I've done a lot of reading up on dye running and think it's going to be fine. I'll let you know how it works out when I pull it out of my machine and can see the results for myself!

Over the weekend I hope to put down some serious hours for my LE2 hand sewing and when my hands can take no more and need some stretching, I'll be working on my workshop booklets and getting them ready for binding.

Oh March, slow down!

Wednesday 11 March 2015

WOW: Hand Sewing My Heart Out!

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
I feel like my feet are barely touching the ground at the moment! Luckily I have a list and schedule otherwise I'd completely lose track of what I need to do. I'm offline most of the time now and am only checking my emails every few days. Drastic steps for busy times!

Here I am working on my LE2 compass: I'be been working on various elements over the last few months (its all in the preparation) and now I'm just sewing it all down. I say 'just', but being a perfectionist means hundreds of hours and beautiful workmanship - otherwise, what's the point? My LE2 is an heirloom just as significant as my original LE and I know it will be in my family for generations, so every stitch matters to me, even with looming deadlines.

Are you coming to AQC? Are you in my LE2 class? If any of you are still on the fence, there are a few spots left so it's not too late. As for me, it's more hand sewing today, I've got deadlines to keep!

What's Your WOW ?

Tuesday 10 March 2015

My LE2 Workshop at AQC In April

 April is just around the corner now.

I'm hand sewing my LE2 coverlet. This is the coverlet I'm teaching in a special workshop at AQC this year. Hand sewing gets me in a contemplative mood and has me asking all those mysterious questions all over again. Such as; knowing that the British were sticklers for records, surely there is an account of wealthy people throughout the country where the coverlet was first found?
And, having recognized and recorded the coverlet as such a fine example of work, why didn't Averil Colby say more about the quilt? Did she know more? Did she try to uncover more?
I just can't help feeling that the woman behind this quilt was remarkable - almost certainly in wealth, but also in textiles. And this narrows down the field even more. Was she a married to a mill owner? how did she have access to or afford so much chintz? If she was 'merely' wealthy and purchased so much of it because she could, this doesn't explain how she obtained or created the coverlet pattern.
And having created or obtained the pattern for the coverlet, wouldn't she have shown it off in her society circles? This pattern is really extraordinary and unique for its era. What does that mean? Did she make it personally? Or did she copy designs which she had seen outside of the UK? Was she a foreigner? So many questions, Love Entwined, so few answers.

I really hope I live to see this textile marvel and mystery solved in my lifetime. It really is a significant piece of work in the era and I'm sorry that it is languishing without it's maker's name. I wish there were more historical and archival textile hunters out there! The original is truly a national treasure. I hope it becomes recognized as such. And soon.

As for me, I have done what I could and now I'm focusing on sharing my love of Love Entwined in a larger centre based quilt exclusively for AQC this year. I'm really looking forward to the workshop. It feels doubly special to be presenting it in person too, especially as LE2 is such an emotive quilt.

I can't wait to meet my LE2 students in just a few weeks time. Are you coming? Have you prepared your background fabric? Are you ready for the workshop? In these weeks running up until AQC I'm making student contact my first priority, so please, if you have any questions - ask me!

My goodness, time is flying!

Wednesday 4 March 2015

WOW: Real Opinions - Do They Still Matter?

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays

I think they do.

Last week I shared my batting pet hate. Thanks to everyone who commented. I purchased the batting at a show and have no idea where to return it although I agree that it should be sent back. That got me thinking of the other products I have previously loved and trusted ... many have fallen short lately.

One of the advantages of having a blog is the ability to share real-life unbiased feedback. I love reading the real opinions of others and must admit that most of my purchases nowadays are based on recommendations and suggestions from those very same real life opinions. It's something I'd love to see more of. I get so annoyed when I trust in a brand and am then disappointed with the performance or quality standard. And its not just quilting or sewing products either- it's services too. Remember my post about QNNTV from December last year? It's now been 8 emails and still no reply. And no, I still can't get in. I lost $12 which is no big deal, but it's the blatant money grabbing set up I can't stand. And it just doesn't make sense. If there's no one there - who's running (or not) the website? That's just a minor annoyance - there are so many more where that one came from, and many much more significant too.
What's going on? 
Whatever happened to quality control? 
Whatever happened to customer service?

Yes, I actively seek out real reviews now before buying things and I think it's the way of the future. But I can't end this post without acknowledging that there are still some real service stars out there in the quilting community. EQ7 is one. I cannot fault their customer and technical service. Whenever I have needed advice or support, Penny has responded in such a friendly and helpful way, its made all the difference.  And often at the last minute too (from my end) because creativity just works like that, when you feel you need answers you need them straight away and I have always received them as quickly as humanly possible from EQ7. Thank you EQ7 for loving quilters!

And I can't forget Quilt Pro Systems either. I had purchased their HST Triangles Magic software for use in a HST quilt for easy printing out. Then I updated my computer (this happens twice a year in my household due to my DH's work requirements). Well, somehow I lost it. And then I couldn't remember where I had purchased it. Then I found the website in my favorites bar and contacted technical support to see if I could re-download it. Well, not only did they send me a new link to download it, Linda from Quilt Pro tech support found two other purchases I had made under my username (which I'll be honest, I had forgotten about) and re-sent me those as well. Talk about customer service!
See? It's completely possible!

What do you think?

Tuesday 3 March 2015

I'm back!

Last night I arrived back in Melbourne from back to back workshops and I am exhausted! Too much creativity for one week... if that were possible.  I was also offline for almost a week, so if you have emailed me - I'll be catching up in the next few days and you will hear from me.

I did think I would miss being online and catching up on WOW as I did last week, but I was so busy that I didn't really think about it. It's only catching up to me now as I have just realized that it's almost WOW again. What a week!

I haven't washed Lily Rose again yet. I am hovering over it thinking about the best way forward. It will have to be washed and I will blog it when I do. Today I started preparing my kits for AQC. Now that March is here, April doesn't feel so far away anymore and AQC will be here in a flash. I can't wait - but I do have to finish Lily Rose first so that I can display it at the show!

As you can see, I'm taking bouts in cooling off my fingers. I have a bad habit of touching the base of my iron to see if its hot. It's such a silly habit and it's something I know I shouldn't do... and do it anyway. Well, on my last day of teaching I touched a far too hot iron - one of those old seriously hot bases and scorched three fingers all at once. It's been ice water since. The worst thing is, I'm always telling people not to do it. Just like my Lily Rose Colour Run Disaster, I need to start taking my own advice!
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