A Grab Bag

I’ve been sewing, but not updating! In fairness I’ve been doing a bunch of other things – like sewing a plush as hell black faux fur coat and then getting married in it. (I also wore a dress underneath).

Not visible in the pictures: a fine dusting of fluff on everything in my studio, including all my shelves because it floated everywhere. Not a bad effort for being thrown together in two nights before the wedding though.

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I also finished off a single bed sized quilt for a commission. I hadn’t tried this lattice pattern before and while I love the final result I think I would probably try a different construction technique in future. I do love the little aeroplane pattern on the backing though.

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Plus when I was in Melbourne last I visited Making the Australian Quilt: 1800-1950 at the National Gallery of Victoria. I found it super fascinating and also got to demonstrate some good quilt-nerd facts to my date. I was particularly enamored with the Wagga quilts and some of the silk log cabins. As per usual, I found the crazy quilts boring and hideous, but I can respect the skill that goes into them.

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I also really loved this red and white quilt which was made as a prize in a raffle? So much advice stitched into one item!

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Newly in progress and hopefully to be polished off shortly is another pinwheel quilt (I had a hell of a time finding matching fabrics to pull to to synch with what my friend gave me to work around – baby loves their jewel tones a little too much it seems.)

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My Most Successful Selfie Yet PLUS a Quilting Convention

A gorgeous friend of mine, Robbie, is always immaculately dressed and because he is both generous and extremely well put together he allowed me to take a look at one of his (I think) most excellent pieces with the express purpose of purloining a small bit of his style for myself. It’s a beautiful draped woollen cloak which he found in a second hand store in Tauranga and it’s precisely the kind of gender-neutral drapery I have been lusting after for some time now. Taking inspiration from that I made some changes to make the design my own, including using a knit fabric so it would have a little more body and bounce to it and making it quite a lot longer because I have a fondness for dramatic swooping and set to work. I picked up heavy 100% Merino from The Fabric Store who are lovely and also about 10 minutes from my studio (convenient) and then, buoyed by my own successes in making a cape-cloak which I can also use to take a nap in naturally set to work taking selfies.

Anyway, I apparently underestimated the degree to which my pals (particularly on Twitter) also need an outfit for dramatic swooping and impromptu naps because this has far and away been my most successful selfie yet – I’ve had three orders come through. I look forward to making the look du jour for Wellington an elegant nap blankie, and with that in mind popped a listing up on Etsy right here if you would like one for yourself.

Other things I’ve been up to in the last few weeks include attending the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne last week. This is the second year I’ve gone and sadly I didn’t have time to take quite as many photos as I would have liked this time around, but I did pick up some useful bits and pieces. I’m making a commissioned single bed size quilt in blues, blacks and whites and grabbed some nice fat quarters for that.

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I also grabbed a rotating cutting board which I’m very excited about for squaring up blocks. While trying to be lazy/speedy the other day I ran over my knuckle with a rotary cutter because I was trying to cut sideways, so hopefully I can avoid more sewing injuries now I have it.

I also took a quick look around the exhibition side of things and was very taken with this (it has a rainbow gradient in it, I know you’re all shocked.) It’s called Dear Angela, made by Phil Thomas and is hand pieced and hand quilted.

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I do have to say, since it would be kind of remiss not to mention this, that I would really appreciate it if the AQC declined to let exhibitors/vendors sell Golliwogs at the show. As far as I could see it was just one table, but boy they really went all out in terms of every possible textile craft in which one might want to make a super-racist children’s toy. I kind of can’t believe this is still seen as a remotely? Acceptable? Thing? in 2016 but apparently the AQC didn’t think it was worth mentioning. Quilting in general seems to skew very white and towards an older demographic, which I think is a great shame, particularly given the histories of quilting within non-white cultures and communities (and in fairness there were some great vendors selling fabrics from Japan at the show, including Wabi-Sabi Designs so it’s not like this was completely missing from the convention) . But y’know, maybe the community as a whole would be a bit more welcoming and open if the first thing you see upon entering a convention wasn’t a whole table full of racist caricatures.

Anyway, I kind of hate ending a post on a bum note, because I try to use sewing and quilting as an escape from a lot of my studies and work which often involves grappling with very depressing and grim topics, but I also feel pretty strongly you shouldn’t opt out of critiquing problematic stuff just because it’s inconvenient. (Some time I’m going to really have a spew on here about my frustration with having to sift through stacks and stacks of fabrics which appropriate traditional designs without attribution, but that’s a post for another day.)

Minimalism and Wholecloth Quilting (?)

I have two (2) things to show off today! The first is a quilt which I made as a birthday gift for someone very dear to me. It’s my first experiment with English paper piecing, as well as the first quilt which is (sort of, I guess) a wholecloth quilt. I’ve been fascinated by wholecloth quilts for ages now, and it might be something I experiment with more later this year. I’m keen to try out multiple layers of imagery in them in subtly different thread colours, because why would I start with something straightforward? That would be the easy way out.

But anyway, a few more progress pictures. I should also mention that the design was inspired by some of the quilts I’ve seen Modern Handcrafts make.

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Arranging the hexagons and deciding on my fabric choices.

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I sort of love how all the tiny safety pins look spread across the quilt – like a school of fish.

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I think this might be as far as  I go with paper-piecing. I’m still chipping away at the (very small) paper pieced block for the Sleigher quilt I started, uh, a year and a half ago. I love the lightness of this quilt though and the quilted lines were also my first experiment with using a disappearing fabric marker. It worker surprisingly well and has me thinking about whole cloth projects with more seriousness.

And the finished quilt, with a black and gold binding.

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The other thing I’ve been making fast progress with has been the nesting quilt I showed some early progress on in my last post. I’ve around 2/3 of the way through sewing the initial four block portions, I think perhaps another few hours and the whole top should be complete. I like naming my quilts, and I’m still tossing around potential names for this series (this is 1 of 7). Part of me wants some kind of play on the ever smaller quilts, or something to do with the repetition and inversion of form and colour that will be apparent through the whole series.

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Presently completed four-block squares.

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Dwindling pile of single blocks.

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This quilt top looks like complete chaos and I love it (this is just laid out to get an idea – the final version will have some sage and yellow to offset it a little.)

The other development is that I finally got shelves for my studio! No more storing everything in a pile of plastic containers inching ever closer to my workbench. Left is all my fabric arrayed by colour, right is lengths suitable for backing or binding and a separate cube for each WiP.

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Further Finishes

Something about the New Year is making me want to finish what I’ve started before I begin anything new. In my last post I showed off the coat I’ve finally finished after some eight months – today I have two more finishes, and one WiP I’m making good progress on.

First! The baby quilt I finished just before Christmas. I recently located the photos I took and then immediately lost among my extensive library of memory cards.

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I love it: it’s soft and lightly quilted and just right for a snuggly floor quilt for a baby.

Next up: I finished the French Braid quilt I started about four years ago. Finished! Done! (Also now listed on my Etsy) The odd thing about working on a quilt for this long is how much my tastes have changed. I still like this quilt, but I can’t imagine I’d do anything with such a deliberate lack of intention or form to the colour arrangements? I find that I much prefer sewing with a strong sense of purpose and a clearly defined outcome now. With this though I cut the strips for the chevrons (chevrons are one thing that hasn’t changed in my quilting) and then pulled them out more or less at random to sew together the blocks.

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This next one is the early stages of quilting together a top I’ve had sitting aside since last May. It’s the twin to the hexagon quilt I made last year: where that one went from a high density center to low density colour at the edges this does the opposite: I used the leftovers from the original to sew it. I’m doing a free motion quilting, same as before, but this time in a regular Gutermann thread, instead of the Sulky thread. Sulky thread gives an amazing finish and looks beautiful, but also broke anytime I changed speeds even slightly while quilting, meaning I had to rethread my machine about every 5-10 minutes through the whole 7+ hours of quilting.

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The patterns not being completely matched is annoying me slightly, I have to admit but it was the most efficient way to use the leftover fabric. I’ve quilted one sixth of this so far, which took just over an hour – the combination of pulling such an enormous mass of fabric around my machine and the extra effort required for free motion quilting anyway completely annihilated my mid-back, so I might have to pace myself when it comes to finishing this off.

I’m waiting on a gigantic order from Hawthorne Threads too, but I’ve told myself I’m not allowed to cut into it until I finished up this hexagon. I’m looking for the perfect 6″ drunkards path template set too, which is a tougher thing than you might think (I suspect I’m going to go for the Marti Mitchell templates) so I can’t cut into it until that arrives anyway. I’m excited to post my next project once it is underway though!

 

In Which I Finish One Thing, and Threaten to Start Several More

It’s no great secret my WiP pile is constantly raging out of control, but this month I have a finish to show you! (Actually, I had two – but the photos I took of the baby quilt from last month are hidden somewhere among my hoard of SD cards, so they’re pending…)

The coat I showed some progress on over the last few months is finally finished! I created it with the intention of it being kind of sculptural, cocoon like and not necessarily conforming to the shape of my body. Clothing as armour or exoskelton I suppose.

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In the end I actually found this worked nicely as a flowing coat/cape too though.

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And the ridiculously high collar/neckline is nice for hiding from the world.

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The little baby quilt I made was well received  – I got an adorable snap from my friend on Christmas day of his nephew giggling away on it. I’m contemplating buying a stack of half yards and complementary creams and whites to start work on some new large quilts too. I’ve told myself I can’t begin them until I finally (finally) finish the binding on the brown and green chevron quilt that’s been quietly waiting in my lounge for six months and done the quilting on the inverse twin of the hexagon rainbow gradient quilt I made last May.

In the mean time, here’s the approximate pull I’m planning for my next projects:

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I just caught up on my backlog of reading from December and reading through some of my favourite blog’s 2015 recaps has been a pleasure. One particular highlight was this post from Jaybird Quilts. I love rainbow fabrics, I love colour gradients, I love jewel tones and chevrons and seeing her photos was like having some deep part of my psyche massaged.

Baby’s First Quilt Convention

Well, not quite my first convention, but the first I’ve been to since I was in my teens. I made it to the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne last month and really enjoyed myself. It’s held in the Royal Exhibition Building which I’ve often walked past and wanted to look around so this served a dual purpose of allowing me to finally get a bit of a tour.

Royal Exhibition Building

The exhibition itself was split about evenly between vendors and the exhibition of competing quilts – I restrained myself from spending too much but got a new rotary cutter and a few fat quarters, plus a whoooole stack of pamphlets for machines for me to lust after.

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I also got a chance to drive a couple of long arm machines for the first time ever. This is the Juki Virtuoso (excuse the poor lighting) and you drive it with two joystick like handles, then the machine automatically adjusts the length of your stitches as you speed up or slow down (I know this is probably very elementary to a lot of people reading, but I’d never seen one in action before.)

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The quilts I was most taken with in the exhibition were the wholecloth quilts and those which used a couple of very large blocks of colour and very fine and detailed quilting.

This is a detail from Sanderson’s Apprentice by Karen Terrens:

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And this is a detail shot of Turkish Delight by Phillipa Thomas. I’m particularly fond of her use of silk as a construction fabric – as much as I love patterned cottons I’ve been interested in using other materials for some time (I think I posted a sample block of a chevron quilt pattern in dupioni silk a few years back) and it’s exciting to see someone constructing a bed sized quilt out of silk.

 

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I should also add that the posted information about sharing photos from the exhibition indicated it was allowed as long as appropriate credit was given to the makers – if anyone whose work is featured in this post would like the images removed please leave me a comment and I’ll take them down immediately.

As for my own quilting, I’ve been working on a chevron commissioned quilt – it’s close to done, actually. Some pictures of it in progress (I’ve been sewing it while visiting my Grandma).

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Toasty warm in front of the fire.

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George stayed home, but Pudding here helped with the all important basting process, making sure the fabric didn’t move while I was pinning it.

No Escape from Christmas

Good (very early) morning. I’m writing this in an airport and soon I’m going to court the sort of curiosity knitting in public always piques by rolling a skein of yarn up into a ball. For now though I figured I’d fill you in on what I’ve been doing lately.

I’ve basted and started quilting together Indigo Pinwheels. As you can see, little fibres from the Warm and Natural Cotton Batting have clung to the quilt top – I’m liking it better for dense quilting, but the shedding is quite annoying.

Basting 1

Here you can see my high tech painters tape solution to keep the backing still while I baste it all together.

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After trimming there’s usually a 2″ border of batting and backing to account for shrinkage as I quilt. Folded corner unbound

I chose sympathetic but not actually matching patterns for the back and the binding. I’ve only started quilting – still several hours to go I expect – but at this stage I’m running very very large checks along the squares and densely quilting one pinwheel out of each square.

Backing and binding

I usually try to keep my baby quilts fairly lightly quilted so they’re soft and snuggly (although this is personal preference only) so it’s nice to have a more adult styled quilt where I can make use of a more densely quilted style.

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Densely quilted back

Something else I’ve done this month has been to make some minor edits to a skirt. When I bought it, it fit nicely around my hips and butt but was too big in the waist (just fractionally) and a smidge too long.

Before side Before front

You can see that the waist gapes at the back a little and the skirt hits right on my knee. I added two small, short darts at the centre back and then just did a simple blind hem to lift the length by about an inch.

After side After front
It’s a fairly small change but I feel like it’s made the whole skirt a lot more flattering and fixed up the lines.

One more little update (to explain the title). I went yarn shopping yesterday, intending to buy some yarn, a pattern and some needles to knit a little baby jumper. I’m not a big fan of the blue-for-boys, pink-for-girls, or of pastels in general so I went fairly bright:

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I picked up the skein from the Holland Road Yarn Company, stopping by their store in the Grand Arcade in Wellington. If you’re a local and you like yarn crafts then I highly recommend a visit. I meant to stop in for 15 minutes but spent probably an hour talking about patterns and being a fake lefty (I knit backwards) with Jen. The yarn I went with has the loveliest hand – supremely smooth and I can’t wait to begin knitting with it. I also picked up a bright red cotton because the colour was too nice to pass up.

It wasn’t until I got it home that I realised I’d inadvertently bought some Christmas colours.

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I don’t have an exact pattern in mind yet for the cotton, but maybe a loose and lacy hat, or a scarf. Something light to make the most of the colour.

Bigmouth Strikes Again (Best Laid Plans)

Sooooo… Christmas has come and gone and my Fair Isle Quilt is, sadly, not yet complete. I hold out hope it’ll be done for Christmas 2015. Ultimately the busyness of December did me in – I started my PhD properly this month and travelled both for work and for the holidays. However! Have some progress photos. It is coming together (I’ve sewn together the Poinsetta blocks since these were taken.)

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Fair isle squaring up

Fair isle offcuts

So much chain piecing. So much squaring up. It was the squaring which took a lot longer than I had anticipated, I think. I have another 11 months to get it complete – or I could go for a midwinter Christmas I suppose!

BUT! I did complete two quilts in December, which isn’t bad going for only having been at home two weeks out of four. I finished up the matching set of chevron baby quilts, in time to gift them before Christmas. I’m supremely happy with how they turned out. The colours were lovely and bright, and the simple straight line quilting made them very soft – I didn’t quilt them particularly densely so they are nice and snuggly.

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Blues up close

Yellow full

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Yellow up close

Front back far yellow

Front back close yellow

Folded stacked close

I got a great deal on some Warm and White Cotton Batting which I wound up using in this quilt, rather than the bamboo batting I usually use. It’s a lot lighter – probably more suited for summer quilts, or quilts for warmer climates. I don’t know if I’ll buy it again because I like a certain degree of floofiness in my quilts, although it does make quilting sizable quilts on my small sewing machine a lot easier. Sadly the straight stitch machine is still a far off dream so I need to take that into account when picking out battings. I’m also getting better at mitred corners!

The quilt got the seal of approval from the wee babe it was gifted to and I got the world’s cutest thank you card from him, written with some help from his Mum.

Since it’s the 1st of January and all I figured I might make a little list of things to finish off and things I hope to start. Among my Christmas gifts was a lovely voucher for Spotlight so I might be making a trip there soon but I’m trying to stay disciplined and not start too many more things before finishing other stuff.

WIPs to finish:

1. Indigo Pinwheels. All the blocks are sewn and pressed, I just need to put the quilt top together, baste and quilt it.
2. Fair Isle Quilt.
3. More coasters to use up my scraps.

To sew/knit:

1. A black cable knit scarf
2. A large Picnic Plaid Quilt – since I’m on a roll with chain piecing.
3. A two-colour pineapple quilt, maybe in vibrant bold prints rather than solids?
4. I mentioned to my friend Alice a little while ago that I could have a hoon at making a quilt top modelled after the Holy Diver album cover. I think I might have my work cut out for me with that one, but it seems like a fun challenge.

Spinning my Wheels

I’ve spent the last few weeks doing too much travelling, and also moving house both into a studio and a summer pad. My apartment needs a whole bunch of earthquake strengthening so it doesn’t go all dominos when New Zealand inevitably gets hit by the Big One. This has necessitated a lot of stress and a lot of wine drinking. I have been trying to mitigate the stress by sewing in my new studio while drinking wine.

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I’ve been working more on the chevron quilts, and also on the Fair Isle quilt-along.I’m horribly belong in the quilt-along, but I’m going to beg off that on account of having been away for 2 of the 4 weeks it has been running for. The poinsettas are almost done, to give you some indication of where I’m at. In keeping with my vaguely music blog leanings, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Dio’s Holy Diver (thanks Alice for the suggestion).

I’ve spent the last three days at home dealing with some family stuff which has come up. I was supposed to be staying with my Ma, but instead I’m staying with my parents. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling a bit useless because there has been nothing to do but wait for a time, and so I’ve gotten some sewing done. I’ve been quilting up the chevron quilts and all they have left is to hand stitch down the binding and they are ready to go to their new home. I quilted them with two seams on each side of each chevron alternating thread colours. I didn’t mark the sewing line, just judged it by the edge of the foot. Functional and reasonably pretty.

BlogpostNov21-5 BlogpostNov21-6 BlogpostNov21-7 BlogpostNov21-8 BlogpostNov21-9 BlogpostNov21-10  Among the sewing I’ve been doing has been some coasters from offcuts of the baby quilts. So far: the yellow and orange have been completed and I’ve resurrected my Etsy to list them if you are just desperate to own a piece of Megan Memorabilia yourself.

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Home is Where the Camera Is

I’m home! Finally. And I have taken some more photos of the delightful circle/drunkards path quilt before it goes off to its new home. It was made for a friend whose new babe was born some months ago now, because I am a bit slow with these things sometimes, but conveniently it was her birthday a week ago, so I can probably pass it off under that guise and appear slightly less crap.

Folded circle quilt

I’ve been thinking a lot about quilting, and sewing and repetition. About what it means to give someone something handmade. All the thoughts have been churning around in my head for weeks, so expect this idea to be revisited and refined in future posts, but for now I want to talk, briefly and terribly, about repetition. Repetition as a concept has shown up a bunch in my studies. In my art history papers, because repetition is a key feature of art – performance art in particular. It also figures heavily in a lot of the Media Studies papers I’ve written. It crops up in a lot of Butler’s writing, about identity. This is probably the most academically vague and lazy thing I’ve ever allowed other people to read, but I’m curious about repetition in handmade items, handmade gifts. A quilt comprises hundreds of hours of cutting, sewing, breaking down large pieces into smaller bits then rebuilding them. There is a repetition to the cutting and sewing which imbues the finished product with meaning. A quilt isn’t just a gift of a blanket, it’s an indication that the recipient means enough to you to warrant a hundred hours of pricking yourself with another sodding safety pin.

Binding close up

 

I feel (hope) that sometimes a quilt/knitted something can be a reminder that there are people who care about you. A quilt isn’t just a blanket, it’s a tangible ‘you can ask other people for help and many will gladly give it’. Wrap yourself up in a hundred hours of work from someone who had never met you, but was willing to be that when you appeared, tiny and screaming in the world, you would be a good person worthy of love and something cozy for the cold nights.

Close up 1 CQ

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Binding plus front

Full circle quilt

 

My dreams of a studio, alas, have not come to fruition – so I’m still taking photos on my lounge room floor, strategically cropping my slippers out of the frame as I hold the camera above my head. I’ve started on a new quilt using the Japanese cottons from my last post and I’m waiting for my finances to pick up a little so I can order some fabrics for matching baby quilts.

Someone (I forget who – if you know please let me know in the comments) wrote a while back about mixing saturation and using that to distinguish light and darks and create visual interest in quilts. I’m broadly grouping my fabrics into lighter/darker and making pinwheel squares from them. I’m excited to see how this comes together.

Dark fabric Japanese Windmill

Lights Japanese Windmill