Thursday, August 22, 2013


I've been playing around with a few replacements to the much-lamented disappearence of Google Reader. Many have done detailed research, I basically want something I can access from the office, my phone, and home. Bloglovin' is the only one that works for me, so that is that.

If you want to follow me on Bloglovin' please use this link: Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting organised

After completely trashing my sewing area looking for fabrics to finish the hot and cold string pieces, I powered through getting the strips cut and sewn together and even trimmed them down so that they are ready to cut into triangles. I am making 80 of them to make a single-sized quilt.

But, this exercise taught me something: I need to get organised. It's not really my nature to be too organised. I used to be but life is more complicated these days. But, when my lack of organisation influences my choices (especially my creative ones), it's time to act.

I was also inspired by some of the posts I read as part of the linky party on Sarah Quilts called you show me yours, I'll show you mine. Some of the stashes were impressive and tidy. I figured it was my turn.

I've divided my quilting fabrics into a few categories - the ones I'm putting into this drawer are less than 1 yard but all are at least 8 x 12 inches. I have another pile of bigger pieces more than a yard. And a pile of big scraps that I will throw into a box.

One thing that this exercise has shown me is that there are some colours I have a lot of and others that I don't. I'm surprised by all the browns and the lack of greens (I always use green) - who knew?

I have a few lingering projects to deal to and then I'm planning another stash-busting project. As you can see, there is no room for any more purchases - this is a bad thing!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How I started quilting

Each month on Block Lotto Sophie suggests a topic or question for the weekend update. This month's question is "How did you start quilting?"

I suspect I am like many who drifted in and out of quilting without actually creating a quilt. My mother is a quilter and I can distinctly recall many quilts that she started but not many that she finished. I still go into her studio and dig out the blue fan blocks that she started piecing by hand out of Laura Ashley prints - I think I was 7 when she started that one.

My story is much the same. I have always sewn and done crafts since I was taught to use a sewing machine at age 9. I had a part time job at Joanne's while in university and made many of my clothes. I started my first quilt when I went to stay with my parents while they were living in Cyprus - this was when I was 21. I was bored out of my mind and thought it would be a good activity to make a quilt (between getting sunburned at the beach and hanging out with the Marine guards from the embassy). I drafted a block using graph paper and cut out the templates using plastic. I bought some fabric locally and stole some from my mother's stash. I chose yellow and blue - I seemed to find a lot of them and they were my university colours.

I managed to make about 4 of these blocks and the fabrics, templates, and finished blocks followed me back to the USA, around the country, and eventually to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, I had started and finished my first quilt in 2010. This one for my bedroom to go with the new wallpaper that I had put on the panels behind my bed. Although this is my first finished quilt, it is not the first I started, so it only half counts as my first.

At about the same time, a week before my cousin was coming to visit, I tried to clear out the closet of the guest room. I found 5 unfinished quilts - some of them baby quilts for children ready to go off to college. I vowed to get them all finished in the year.

November 2010 was when I finished that first started quilt. I thought the colour scheme was ghastly, so I added some green to the mix. Those first blocks were terrible too, but I was determined to keep them. The finished quilt is queen sized and is made up of 25 12" blocks. I did not know how to speed piece the HST so each triangle was cut and sewn in a pair (I have learned much since then).

The one pink star was to introduce the pink from the backing fabric.

Although my tastes have changed, I love this quilt. It lives at our beach house and I am happy to see it every time we are there. Must be time for another visit (if this horrible rain ever stops).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What to do with of all these scraps

My recent flurry of activity is slowing down. I still have some threads to deal with on the green hexi quilt (I'm calling it Hexi-bee now). This is not a very inspiring task, so I thought it was time to find some creative ways to deal to my stash.

One of the problems that I have (I am not alone) is that because I don't use patterns and tend to make things up as I go I never know how much fabric to buy. Add to this my need to have a wide variety of fabric mixed into every quilt. The end result is that I always buy too much fabric. Way too much.

When I first started playing Block Lotto a few years ago, I had to go out and buy fabric to make many of the blocks - "oh no, I don't have any blue fabric, I'll have to buy some." This is no longer a problem.

On the weekend I stopped in to a quilt show called Road to Colour. It was very inspiring - the hall was filled with bright colours, many courtesy of Kaffe Fassett. The quilts gave me a lot of ideas about using up my stash. So many of the quilts used lots of different fabrics all mixed together without looking old fashioned scrappy. Let's call it new fashioned scrappy.

One particular quilt caught my eye. (I don't remember who made it, sorry.) It was made up of string-pieced diamonds using dark and light fabrics. I've started my own version using warm and cool colours.

The size of the block was determined by the size of my phone book which I am using to foundation piece the strips so that they don't get too wavy.

Each string rectangle is trimmed down to 7" x 9-1/2" and then cut along the diagonal. I do this in sets of 4 with two rectangles of each colour. I stack one warm and one cool rectangle face up and cut from corner to corner (for example, upper left to lower right). I then repeat the process cutting the second pair on the other diagonal (for example, upper right to lower left).

Match the left warm triangle with the right cool triangle (and so on) to make 4 sets. Sew them together. I've been pressing the centre seams open to reduce the bulk. These 4 rectangles can be arranged to make a diamond (either ward in the middle or cool in the middle).

Half-rectangle triangles do not behave nicely like half-square triangles. They need to be cut, rotated, and matched in pairs. I tried sewing either side of the diagonal like I normally do with a HST and I made two kites (now I know how to do that if the need arises).

I can't complain though, they are going together quickly. I am debating if I should just use the warm and cool diamonds or if I should make a border with neutral darks and lights (I have lots of blacks, greys, and beiges). I will need to do a few to see how it looks - maybe that will end up being the start of a second quilt.

No specific plan for this one. Maybe it's time to give a few away.

Linking up with Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Almost finished

My Monday Modern quilters bee block quilt is almost done. I finished the binding on Sunday night so that I could bring it along to our monthly meeting. BUT, there are still the threads to deal with.

I never know the best method for finishing off the threads. In this case, I have a lot of them. I'm still grappling with the compromises that I need to make when quilting on a frame with a domestic machine. If I had done this using FMQ, I wouldn't have nearly as many threads to deal with - but, the quilting would have taken me 4 times longer. Which is worse? I don't know.

This time I'm threading each loose end onto a needle and embedding it into the batting. This is the best way I know to prevent the stitches from pulling out. In this case, it's tedious - I've calculated that I have at least 12x39+20 threads to put through the eye of my needle and tuck in. Ouch! (Why do I count these things?)

Sometimes I just clip them off and hope for the best. So far, this has worked fine. For wall hangings or pillows I knot them on the back. This time I wanted a more professional finish, so I am struggling to get it done.

I'll do another post on the the whole quilt once all those pesky threads are gone. Meanwhile, I'm counting this one as a work in progress (WIP) and linking up on Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

Plaid quilt #2 finished (a while ago)

I finished this quilt quite a few weeks ago, but never managed to post it. Then, I discovered where I hadn't quite caught the binding and then I spilled tea on it. So, I finally fixed the binding, put it into the wash, and now it's ready for prime time.

This is the second quilt that I made using the 48 blocks I won from Block Lotto last April. The first quilt has a more traditional setting with sashing and borders. This one I set on point with offset rows. It was an experiment on how different I could make them, and I think I succeeded. Here's a comparison of the two quilts.

I backed this one with two bright fabrics that I picked up on sale. I like that I can use almost anything on the back of a scrappy quilt and it still matches.

The quilting was done on my Swiftquilter with a Juki TL98P machine. It was my first quilt using this setup and my first using feathers. I'm pleased with the results and found that the allover pattern was quick and painless.

This one finished up at 53" square which makes a generous lap quilt. Thank you again all of the lovely ladies who participate in Block Lotto who made this quilt possible.