I am a Maker

There are no quilters in my family tree, but there are knitters and crocheters.

My Nana made a granny square blanket for each of her 21 grandchildren, and was working on the greats when she passed.

One grandmother was known as the Mad Knitting Woman of Tauranga….or so my mother tells me. She never gained her drivers licence, so walked all over town, needles tucked under her arms, and wool in her bag, knitting steadily away. Her 6 kids trailed behind her by some distance, trying to pretend they were at best, only distantly related. When she died a few years ago, her pensioner flat was filled with wool, and 27 cans of peaches (another story altogether).

Needless to say, my mother did not knit much herself. She finally gave up knitting my daughters newborn matinee jacket a couple of years ago, when my daughter was about 19. It had been sucked up the vacuum cleaner a couple of times, and was covered in dust bunnies. Luckily my MIL was more committed to keeping the cold away from her precious first-born grandchild!

I started sewing after that same daughter was born. We kindly described her at the time as being built like a front-row prop (a rugby reference), and she had a head too large to fit through the opening of any store-bought clothes. So, I learnt to sew sweatshirts and t-shirts for her. When she grew into her head (sort of like a puppy), I downed tools.

My first attempt at quilting travelled up and down the North Island for six years, as we shifted for my husbands work. It was a stain-glass window pattern, quilt as you go, and king-sized. Slightly ambitious for a first project. Eventually I gave up, and paid a local quilt maker to bind and finish the final quilting.

I promised myself I would start quilting again when I finished studying. Unfortunately I was in the process of undertaking the longest doctoral programme in the history of my department (according to my supervisor). So, I collected fabric, since technically that wasn’t quilting.

The 82 leftover blocks from the Pansy Monstrosity quilt.
The 82 leftover blocks from the Pansy Monstrosity quilt.

Twenty eight pansy fabrics later, my thesis was handed in, and I returned to quilting. The result is what I call the Pansy Monstrosity, and it’s so bad I can’t bear to finish it.

Daughter #2’s workspace, formerly known as the dining table.

Meanwhile, I am training up the next generation. Daughter #2 started young, and has no fear. I turn to her for advice about anything craft related. As a child of the digital age there is no problem she cannot solve, or skill she cannot learn.

….though she is also following me into a serious chocolate addiction (note giant-sized Kit Kat in foreground).


Scrappy quilts rule

After making a postage stamp quilt last year, following a tutorial provided by Red Pepper Quilts, I decided to kick back and have a bit of fun. The result was a large pile of improv log cabin blocks. I picked out my favourites, and combined them with a bit of Shot Cotton from Spotlight, and some strips of various pansy fabrics left over from the Pansy Monstrosity quilt.

My daughter saw it, and offered to buy it, which meant of course I gifted it to her.

My favourite block in the quilt is this one, comprising four smaller blocks.
My favourite block in the quilt is this one, comprising four smaller blocks.

My friends call my quilts “excessive”. This describes both my colour choices, and the amount of fabric I buy in order to complete them. They have advised against building up a stash, but like all new quilters in love with quilting fabric, this has fallen on deaf ears.

For example, the postage stamp quilt required a large scrap collection, which I did not have. As only my second quilt, I had some pansy fabrics and bits of batiks to use in it, which obviously wasn’t enough. So I sallied forth to the quilt shops in my neck of the woods, and bought strips of fabric. Lots of strips of fabric! Only 4-6 inches wide, but I only needed a single 2×7 inch strip of each to make the postage stamp quilt, so there were left-overs.

Batiks, marbles, solids, prints….I bought whatever caught my eye.

Another colourful quilt. Next step in quilting, learning restraint in colour choices.
Another colourful quilt. Next step in quilting, learning restraint in colour choices.

At the end of this process, I had enough scraps left to make two coin quilts, this scrappy log cabin, and the pile is still there. This mystery of scrap quilting, that the scrap pile never grows smaller, was new to me. In an effort to reduce the pile, I donated scraps to my daughter, nope, pile still there.

In all its glory. Excuse the shadow, it’s hard finding a sheltered but sunny spot in the garden.

Another log cabin lap quilt, using the 16 leftover blocks from this quilt is underway. Gulp! I think I need to start planning my quilts, since I had more blocks leftover, than I actually used in the quilt.

I am over log cabin blocks for now, so I might pay a visit to Crazy Mom Quilts archives, and start looking at her scrap projects. Pincushion anyone?

Linking up (eventually) to TGIFF, Link a Finish Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and Crazy Mom Quilts.

I am keeping this quilt.

As I mentioned in my first post, I have a habit of giving away the stuff I make. Crochet rugs… given to my MIL, and all the babies born in our congregation. Quilts… well I even gave away my first and best effort. It’s not a bad thing, some of us show our love by making things after all. But then you start a blog and realise your quilt gallery is empty, because you gave everything away, un-photographed.

So, I have promised myself I will keep this quilt!

A summer version of the Gypsy Wife Quilt by Jen Kingwell.
A summer version of the Gypsy Wife Quilt by Jen Kingwell.

There was a QAL for the Gypsy Wife Quilt in the recent past, but I joined the trend a little late to join in. I did make the most of the hints posted by participants though, especially the note to sew very scant quarter inch seams. There have been some beautiful versions of this quilt made, including one by Catherine Mosley from New South Wales, Australia, which was exhibited earlier this year at Quilt Con.

To make sure I keep this quilt, I have deliberately stitched the hand-quilting with a no returns policy. No unpicking, no do-overs. I reasoned that this way I would be too ashamed of any mistakes to give it away. No matter how worthy the cause.

A little bit of Wee Wander from memory. I included a few fussy cut blocks to break up the main fabrics from the Sidewalks Range I used.
A little bit of Wee Wander from memory. I included a few fussy cut blocks to break up the Sidewalks fabric range (by Riley Blake) that dominates the quilt.

So far I have quilted about two thirds of the ribbons that run up the quilt, and few of the blocks. This is mainly because quilting the blocks requires me to rotate the quilt 360 degrees. So, I am procrastinating about that for now. Quite successfully too.

No matter how wonky the stitching, it stays!
No matter how wonky the stitching, it stays!

The one issue I am having is with pulling the knots through from the back of the quilt. It looks like some of the threads on the quilt back are being broken by the knot passing through. The Perle 8 cotton I am using is fairly coarse, and I wonder whether I need to change thread to something a bit finer. Any suggestions?

Now that the evenings are cooler, and the fire is lit, quilting is no longer a potential cause of heatstroke, so I average a couple of ribbons along the quilt length per evening. At the present rate it should be done before the end of winter. It’s a very summery quilt, and will be lovely on my bed, come a return to fine weather.

Must not give away!

Linking up to WIP Wednesdays and Lets Bee Social

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog.

I thought the best way to start this blog would be to follow in the footsteps of other quilty bloggers, and write a list of ten quilt-related confessions. Air my dirty laundry, so to speak, right at the start. So, here goes:

  1. My quilting is fuelled by chocolate….. Not just any chocolate. Only Whittaker’s 5-rolled dairy milk chocolate. I always have a bar in the house, and every day sees me have just a few squares…..for energy. Its not like I couldn’t stop if I wanted to!
  2. and coffee. Plunger coffee preferably. I start the day with a full carafe, just to prop the eyelids open. I then try to restrict myself to one more coffee for the rest of the day. I figure its okay, since I use the coffee grounds to fertilise any acid-loving plants in the garden. Healthy plants store carbon, therefore helping combat climate change., So really, my habit is good for the environment.
  3. I make so many quilts in my head, I hardly have time to make any with my hands. This is the trap with reading so many blogs, but doing so is so enjoyable.
  4. I suffer photo envy. I can take a decent landscape photo, and excellent botany shots, but have no clues when it comes to staging a quilt shot. I look around my section and think, which backdrop? The weedy garden, or the rusty fence. I envy people with access to old farm gates, and farm machinery rusting in open corn or wheat fields.

    Battling the wind in Tongariro National Park. At least Mt Ruapehu looks good.
    Battling the wind in Tongariro National Park. At least Mt Ruapehu looks good.
  5. I bribe my daughter to bind my quilts. Yup, its out there now. I actually bribe my kids to complete my work, but hey, she has a better machine, and she’s just better at it than I am.
  6. Despite being previously employed in the environmental field, I have only just started to question the sustainability of my hobby. As a new quilter it was all about “I must have that fabric, it’s so beautiful”, but after realising the cost of quilting, both monetarily, and the effect of dyes and fabric production on the environment, I’m starting to make an effort to include more second-hand fabric. I’m haunting the local Arts Recycling Centre, where I can pick up fabric for next to nothing. I also never turn away fabric from others, including vintage cottons, which I adore.

    This was Saturday’s haul from the ARC. Some of the pieces may only yield a few 2 1/2 inch squares, but I couldn’t resist them.
  7. I don’t own a single quilt. That’s right, to date I have given away every quilt I have made. Some I still miss, especially my first, a batik masterpiece. I usually get to a certain point in the process, and start dreaming about who to give it to…then I feel duty bound to follow through. I am currently making a quilt I am determined to keep though, the Gypsy Wife quilt. It’s a pattern by Jen Kingwell, an Aussie designer.

    A sneak peek of the Gypsy Wife, as I am still hand quilting it with perle 8.
    A sneak peek of the Gypsy Wife, as I am still hand quilting it with perle 8.
  8. I iron and press. Just to cover my bases on this one.
  9. I can’t do free-motion quilting, so everything is ditch-stitched.  My daughter offered me lessons, so this may change in 2015.
  10. I procrastinate at starting any new project. The world is full of so many beautiful quilts, I find it hard to commit to making any, one, quilt. Should I go modern, scrap, or traditional? Use my stash, buy more fabric? I get paralysed, so I eat chocolate and buy more material. Needless to say, the ladies at all the quilt shops know me by name.

In this blog I plan keep track of my quilting education, and make an effort to connect with like-minded quilters, i.e. any quilters out there who like buying fabric, cutting it up, and sewing it back together. I suspect there are quite a few of us.