Friday Finish – My very own quilt.

It’s taken a long time, but the Gypsy Wife #1 is finally finished.P1060964

I spent the middle of this week home, so after the necessary events of the day were finished, I devoted my time to machine quilting, making scrappy binding, then machine binding this quilt.

Now I know we’re not supposed to apologise for bad photography, but I do wish I had finished this one in summer. I could have posed it amongst riotous flower beds at home, or at the public gardens. Instead, it’s draped over the laundry line, surrounded by mud, wet washing and bare tree branches. I might take it for an outing in summer, just because it deserves a great photo.

Back to the quilt.

I started this quilt over a year ago, taking my time, since it’s a quilt that takes a lot of room to assemble. I took the quilt to a bach (small holiday home, or crib) a couple of times, since I could lay it down on the floor without kids, spouse or cats walking on it. I’ve since acquired a design wall, so GW#2 can be assembled at home.

Some of my favourite blocks, and one I view as a bit of a fail. Guess which is which?
Some of my favourite blocks, and one I view as a bit of a fail. Guess which is which?

The fabrics are a real mixture, but the backbone of the quilt is from the Sidewalks Range by Riley Blake. I didn’t want to use the main fabrics featuring the children playing, but the roses seemed very Gypsy-ish to me. Because I couldn’t get many of these fabrics in NZ, this was also my first overseas fabric purchase. Oh, what a slippery slope that turned into. I am now a devotee of online Quilt Shops, though sadly restricted by budget and the falling NZ$.

Sidewalks by October Afternoon for Riley Blake.
Sidewalks by October Afternoon for Riley Blake.

I saw the original QAL for the Gypsy Wife at the  Factotum of Arts blog, then had to make this quilt because it just “spoke” to me, in a way that not many do.ame1170_gypsy_wife_210x270_fa_page_01I took this quilt on despite my complete and utter lack of experience in sewing a quarter inch seam, let alone cutting or sewing a complex block. At that stage I had just received my new machine (Brunhild), and my Hubbie was nagging me to use it (something to do with justifying a huge cost, credit card bills, didn’t I like his Xmas present….etc).

While I hadn’t let a lack of knowledge or natural ability stop me from starting quilting, these earlier endeavours have yet to be revealed in public (e.g. the Pansy Monstrosity). So, while I gathered up my courage to join in the QAL, I watched others sewing along, including fellow kiwi bloggers Linda at Koka Quilts, and Megan at Jaffa Quilts. Their Gypsy Wives have a more modern, edgier vibe than mine, and are well worth checking out. I got to look at colour combo’s, and gather up sewing hints to help me along. The best hint is to use a scant quarter inch seam throughout, and to remember that the measurements for the final block size do not include seam allowance. Otherwise it can lead to some blocks, just not quite fitting like they should. Speaking from experience, this can be fixed by adding a narrow border sometimes, rather than re-making the block.

Apart from every block being something new to learn, I also tackled big stitch hand quilting with Perle 8 (see post here).P1060957My stitches are wobbly, and uneven, and I’m not sure I’ll do the same for Gypsy Wife #2. I had troubles with knots breaking threads in the fabric, some of the Perle 8 is looking “frayed” already, but once again I learnt an awful amount. For example, when I started quilting I had no idea the quality of fabrics and thread differed so much.

The backing is made from a collection that I found at Spotlight called Piccadilly by DS fabrics for Fabric Traditions. Nobody but me seemed delighted to find DS fabric there, so I have put a half metre of each fabric in my stash for another backing, meanwhile the fabrics are still sitting in the clearance section tempting me to buy more.

Piccadilly by DS Fabrics for Fabric Traditions, available in green and orange colour ways from Spotlight stores in NZ and Australia.
Piccadilly by DS Fabrics for Fabric Traditions, available in green and orange colour ways from Spotlight stores in NZ and Australia.

I like the way the hand quilting looks on the back, almost making the quilt reversible.P1060969One thing I need to figure out in future is how to square up the quilt and backing fabrics a little better. I must acknowledge too, that the back was actually pieced by Daughter #2, in exchange for buying her some fabric.

Another task, new to me, was making scrappy binding. With such a colourful quilt, it seemed the best option. I followed a tutorial by Pat Sloan, using 10-12 inch lengths of each of the fabrics. I tried to leave the larger remnants alone, since I would like to make a matching pillowcase or two.

I am happier with this binding than any other I have done so far. The difference was ironing the binding towards the front, after attaching it to the back of the quilt. I then had to only pin the corners, leaving me to concentrate on sewing oh so close to the edge of the binding, rather than on removing pins, and stabbing myself with them. As a result, no blood was spilt during the making of this quilt! Another first.

Scrappy binding, mainly in the Sidewalks range.
Scrappy binding, mainly from the Sidewalks range.

All that is left is to wash and dry the quilt. Any cautions for washing quilts with hand stitching? Otherwise, I guess a gentle wash as always, with a few colour catchers, and line drying. It might have to wait for a sunny day though.

This will be my first quilt, sewn just for me. I have promised myself there is no giving away this quilt, no matter how worthy the cause.

Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts, TGIFF, and Link a Finish Friday.

A Friday Finish and some Zentangle

I pulled out all the stops today, so I could have a finish for the end of the week.

Introducing the WWIT (What Was I Thinking) quilt.

The WWIT quilt, in all its glory!
The WWIT quilt, in all its glory!

This quilt comprises the rejected blocks from an improv log cabin quilt I gifted to Daughter #2. Or she acquired, my memory is a bit hazy on that one. I was a bit uncertain about even finishing the quilt, but after posting it here, I was told by generous readers to finish it, and donate it if it was too bright for my liking. It appears there is no such thing as too bright a quilt.

The original wonky log cabin quilt.
The original wonky log cabin quilt.

I still prefer the original quilt, the neutral background toning down the bright colours, just a tad.

I ditch quilted the main intersections of the quilt, then chose a an area in each block to quilt further. The back illustrates the whimsy of it, with squares, trapezoids, and rectangles scattered across the quilt.P1060894

I chose to use the “Backing as Binding” method again for this quilt. I viewed a tutorial by Cluck Cluck Sew to refresh my memory, then launched in. The tutorial made the corner treatment a lot clearer, so I’m happy with the outcome this time.

I’m still not sure where this quilt will end up. There is a flaw in the backing fabric I didn’t see until too late, and I don’t like the thought of donating something with a flaw that may unravel at some stage. So, I may end up keeping this one.

On another note, Daughter #2 has taken up Zentangle and is urging me to do the same. She is joining a community art group next week, and given I’m likely to stay for the hour, she has suggested I  Zentangle during the class. I have seen the books on Zentangle for quilters, so who knows….when I get over my fear of my free motion foot, I might even use it for quilting. No sense in rushing though, huh.

Zentangle on a painted background.
Zentangle on a painted background.

Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts, TGIFF, and Link a Finish Friday.

Midnight at the Oasis #2

P1060879No, its not snowing! This is the side of the box my Brunhild was couriered to me in. Yes, I now have a sewing machine again.

Of course it cost so much to retrieve the screw I dropped in her innards, I could have almost bought another sewing machine. But only a basic one. And they did clean out her innards, and do a little dusting while her covers were off. So at least I don’t have to pay for a service any time soon. Gotta look on the bright side.

Speaking of bright…

P1060874
Midnight at the Oasis version #2, the night-time version.

In her absence, I continued churning out appliquéd blocks. I have committed myself to making two versions of Jen Kingwell’s Midnight at the Oasis by making the second border blocks for version #2, though I have still to sew around the “petals” yet.

Unlike version #1, this quilt will lean heavily on the Midnight theme, and features some garden related fabrics I have been stashing for the purpose. It features beetles, birds and flowers in the block backgrounds. I am trying to stay within a more limited palette, using only blue and the secondary colours either side of it.

Midnight at the Oasis, the sunny version.
Midnight at the Oasis version #1, the sunny summery version.

In contrast, I intend to use pretty much as many colours as have been invented in version #1. A bit like my summer garden. As much as I might wish to recreate the  White Garden at Sissinghurst, my flower beds end up containing whatever pretty flowers catch my eye as I stroll through the garden centre. A colourful, chaotic, riot of colour. With weeds.

The fabric for this quilt has sort of outgrown its container, but buying a larger container would be admitting I have a little too much fabric.
The fabric for this quilt has sort of outgrown its container, but buying a larger container would be admitting I have a little too much fabric.

To avoid my scrap collection growing too much further, I am also trying to use up the batik and hand-dyed fabric scraps I bought from the Art Recycling Centre. The quilts feature lots of appliqué and paper piecing, so most of these scraps will get used on them.P1060885Speaking of paper piecing, I have been encouraged by all and sundry to give it a go. So last weekend I drafted the pattern for the centre medallion, and am waiting for The Hubbie to return home with photocopies. I figure by the time I have sewn the four pieces twice, I should have the basics under control.

I may take a break from this quilt for a couple of weeks and finish off some other quilts, now Brunhild has returned. I have a birthday deadline in a few weeks, and I may finish the Pansy Monstrosity and gift it to my MIL. She didn’t recoil in horror when she saw it, and mentioned she would take it if I didn’t want it.  Since I don’t see how I can co-ordinate a quilt featuring 28 pansy fabrics with my bedrooms floral wallpaper, I think it will be winging its way north shortly.

All will be revealed in a later post.

Linking up eventually with WIP Wednesday and Lets Bee Social.

A Friday Finish

Just to prove I am a slow adopter, or terribly behind the times, I tackled sewing some “magic” or 15 minute pillowcases yesterday for the first time.

I wandered into my LQS with my daughter, and while she was busy finding art supplies, I laid eyes on some gorgeous fabric. It had been languishing on the bottom shelf, unloved and out of sight, and had now made it into the sale bin (only $15/m). I needed this fabric!

Art Nouveau Romance by RJR Fashion Fabrics.
Art Nouveau Romance by RJR Fashion Fabrics.

Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so when I showed the Hubbie, he thought it was hideous.

How can anyone resist Art Nouveau mosquitoes?
How can anyone resist Art Nouveau mosquitoes?

I like Art and Crafts, Art Nouveau and English primroses, so the fabric ticked a lot of boxes for me. I collect china with primroses, and grow yellow primroses in the front garden among native ferns and species lilies. The Hubbie likes coding data, as a hobby, so the finer things in life like primroses tend to pass him by.

The second fabric, Art Nouveau Revisited by RJR Fashion Fabrics.
The second fabric, Art Nouveau Revisited by RJR Fashion Fabrics.

Never mind, it was bought and paid for.

It turns out I didn’t buy enough for normal pillowcases, but the magic pillowcase pattern uses a contrasting cuff, so I only needed 27 inches of the main fabric. Do-able! I used some fabric I had bought for the Midnight at the Oasis quilt for the remainder, since I wanted to make the pillowcases straight away.

I watched the Shabby Fabric Youtube video, then ventured out to create.

It actually worked, and I only had to unpin everything once per pillowcase, since I kept putting right sides down, instead of up.  So, I am now the owner of two gorgeous (or horrific) pillowcases, which will adorn the bed as soon as I have washed them.P1060862

Unfortunately the plaid fabric I used was printed quite a lot off grain. I cut according to the grain without thinking too much about it, and then ended up with wonky plaid on the cuffs. Next time I will cut to keep the pattern straight.

I have been informed that it is quite normal to sew a matching pair of these, at the completion of a quilt project. In future I shall buy more fabric (yippee) to make sure I have enough to do so. Today I shall rummage in the Gypsy Wife #1 pile to see if I have enough fabric left over for binding and pillowcases. If not, Berry Patch Cottage still has some in stock.

I am still awaiting Brunhild’s return from the dealer, but she should be back any day now. Fingers crossed for today, to be followed by a weekend of sewing up a storm.

Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts, TGIFF, and Link a Finish Friday.

Gypsy Wife 2 progress

Brunhild (my Husqvarna Opal) is still in the shop, so progress on anything quilty is still very slow. A visiting technician from another dealer had a look in her innards on Friday, announced he had to go after 45 minutes, shut her back up again, and is charging me $65 for the privilege. In frustration, I have couriered Brunhild across country, and hope to have her back within the week. I have learnt some valuable lessons over the last month. Lesson 1: Don’t drop a screw inside your sewing machine. Lesson 2: If you do so, just bite the bullet and send your machine away. In the meanwhile I have continued borrowing Daughter #2’s Bernina, and have sewn 23 square in a square, or economy blocks for the Gypsy Wife #2. The remaining filler blocks have been cut out, and are sitting awaiting Brunhild’s return. I cannot sew an accurate scant quarter inch seam on the Bernina, so would prefer to wait for Brunhild’s return before progressing further.

Gypsy Wife #2, the dark version.
The completed blocks to date for the Gypsy Wife #2, the dark version.

I have used my design wall this time round, since I am trying to balance the values, while keeping the look of the quilt dark and romantic looking. Looking at it in black and white suggests I need some more contrast within each block. Something to bear in mind for the last blocks. P1060831Carrying on my love affair with Jen Kingwell quilts, I would love to have joined the My Small World QAL , but with no machine and the magazine only turning up in town a few weeks ago, I have decided to make this quilt on the “go slow”. This means I plan to finish it over the next 12 months or so, but certainly not in the time remaining for the existing QAL participants. If you are interested, the pattern is available in the Spring 2015 edition of Quiltmania, though  make sure to visit the QAL for the updated erratum, as the publishers made a couple of errors.quiltmania 2Fabric stashing has begun in preparation, and in the meanwhile I have started another of Jen’s quilts, Midnight at the Oasis.pattern There was another QAL for this quilt in 2013 hosted by Jess at Elven Garden Quilts. Obviously I am a little late for that QAL too. It’s not deliberate, it’s just that as a newcomer to quilting, I seem to be continually missing the boat, trend-wise. The advantage of this is that I can take advantage of all the hints and erratum that get posted during the QAL’s, and can pick a palette for the quilt based on the completed quilts I like. So far I have been concentrating on knocking off some blocks that don’t require a quarter inch seam. Truthfully I’m scared of paper piecing, so sort of ignoring the centre medallion for now. I also plan to replace the appliquéd flower border with a feature fabric, in order to avoid needle turn appliqué. That’s me, the ostrich to centre left with it’s head stuck in the sand! P1060842So far I am using scraps, rather than yardage, so a second version of this quilt may also happen. Maybe I’ll tackle the flower border in that one. No promises though. I bought a lot of low volume fabrics over the last 6 months especially for this quilt, including some garden themed fabrics. A second version would let me use them.P1060844Or I guess there is always Steampunk, or the Circle Game….In the meanwhile I shall see how much I enjoy making this initial version. For any of you lucky quilters out there in Southland, Jen is actually coming to your shores in conjunction with KitznThingz of Invercargill. They have tickets available for her trunk show, available on a first served basis. Linking up eventually with WIP Wednesday, Scraptastic Tuesday, and Lets Bee Social.

GW progress and a challenge quilt

Quilting is a very slow and frustrating affair when your sewing machine (Brunhild) is still awaiting a visit and surgery from the technician. I dropped in on my dealer again this morning, but still no sign of the technician. I am considering swallowing the cost of couriering the machine across country, just to get the loose screw removed.

Meanwhile, lots of hand sewing is going on, and the GW is about ready for binding. I keep adding little bits of quilting while watching documentaries in the afternoon, but it doesn’t really need any more quilting. P1060825I have enjoyed the process more than I expected, especially as my stitch length grew more even, and the end result more visually pleasing. P1060826 P1060827Now it just needs some trimming, and the binding attached. I am tempted to hand quilt the next GW too, but using fewer colours, aiming for a Kantha quilt  look to the finished product.

Of course, not having a machine doesn’t stop you from buying stash, and I am proud to say I am now the owner of some Aurifil thread, and some Liberty art fabric.P1060817 A quick trip to Wellington on the weekend resulted in four shops being visited in a matter of a few hours. My Hubby got a little bit mixed up, and delivered me to the Busy Bee Quilt shop instead of Stitchbird, which enabled me to buy some cheap fabrics at $10 and $12 per meter. The ladies there gave him a bit of a hard time about loitering in the entranceway, to stop me from bolting with too much fabric (excuse the pun). Onto Stitchbird in Kilbirnie which now stocks Aurifil thread, both 50wt and 12wt, though in a limited colour range. Now all I need is my machine fixed, then I can load her up and try it out. Meanwhile I have used some of the 12 wt on the GW.

While at my quilt group last Monday, I was handed a package of scraps from Grandmothers Garden. They had been in town for two days selling their wares, but unfortunately I hadn’t gotten the memo. Pat, one of my fellow quilters, generously purchased scrap bags for us all and issued a challenge to make a top from the scraps. We could add only one other fabric to the mix. My scraps were mainly reproduction fabrics, just the inch or two left next to the selvedge after cutting 5 inch strips. My heart skipped a beat when I saw them, as they included some Best of Morris by Barbara Brackman. I have wanted these fabrics for some time, but hadn’t found a New Zealand supply. Now I had some, for free! The next morning I decided to make a quilt in a day. Not my normal operating procedure, as I usually aim to finish a quilt in weeks, months or a year depending on the difficulty level. I broke into a Bella charm pack, and started attaching strips and charm squares together. After I ran out of charms, I cheated and threw in some neutral scraps to create more blocks.Unfortunately the scraps turned out to be a little variable in width, so all the blocks got cut down to 4 3/4 inches in size. I attached the scraps entirely randomly, then arranged the blocks to alternate between white and other neutral coloured  blocks. I had an enforced stop during the middle of the day, while my daughter slept, but made up for it that night by quilting till late, since everyone else had plans for the evening. By the end of the night I had a quilt top!

One fast and simple quilt.  Excuse the wrinkles, but the sun was out, so I rushed outside for a quick photo shoot.
One fast and simple quilt. Excuse the wrinkles, but the sun was out, so I rushed outside for a quick photo shoot.

I offered it back to the Church quilt ministry, but they requested I finish it first. That of course won’t happen for a while, since I am sans machine. Given how much I love some of the fabrics, I suspect that after quilting it, I may well keep it after all. Is it okay to withdraw a quilt, once you’ve offered it?

One thing I discovered while making this quilt, is how much I love my Husky. Especially its quarter inch foot, with its little guide. I hope the technician turns up this week, I miss my Brunhild.

Linking up eventually with WIP Wednesday and Lets Bee Social.