Our first quilts, or, what I learnt from making the Pansy Monstrosity

We all have to start with our first quilt. If we are fortunate, this quilt is made while we are young. This is so we can blame the chopped off points, uneven seams, and casual approach to colour theory on our inexperienced, youthful selves.

Unfortunately, I cannot blame a small child for the hot mess I have come to call the “Pansy Monstrosity”. I was not only of a mature age, but even had some limited sewing experience, when I “created” this quilt.

Pansies, and more pansies.

I have come to view it a bit like companion planting in the vegetable garden. The theory is that you plant sacrificial species in amongst the useful vegetable crops. The pests swarm to these, leaving your precious edible crops to grow. Similarly, after the initial construction phases I left this quilt in my quilt studio, abandoned, for a couple of years. Every time I picked it up, further gross quilting errors were made, enabling me to avoid making these errors on more prized quilting projects. Eventually the time came to pluck this quilt out though. Bind it, wash it, and find it a home…somewhere far, far away.

In the interests of the greater good, I thought I would share with you the painful lessons I have learnt from making this quilt.

  1. I now show some restraint in my fabric curating habits. For example, I will never again become infatuated with collecting a themed fabric (e.g. pansies, cats), with no future project in mind. Although browsing for fabric is a delightful pastime, and supports our LQS, eventually you do have to do something with those 28 Pansy fabrics you bought. Do you really want to be including them in every project for the foreseeable future? Besides which, I have discovered eating chocolate is a far better use of my time when stressed, rather than cruising the internet buying yet more fabric. It’s cheaper, and my children will even walk down to the dairy to get it for me.
  2. I learnt it is a good idea to take a beginners quilting course, rather than throwing yourself into designing your own quilt first time out. This is especially true if the techniques required use acronyms you have never heard of (e.g. QAYG), let alone understand the ramifications of.

    I cut squares of each Pansy fabric, outlined them with a contrasting colour, then joined into strips and quilted them. The sashing later between the blocks seemed too plain, so out came the fancy stitches and variegated threads.
  3. I learnt it pays to plan your quilt, and do some quilt math. That way you avoid having just as many Pansy blocks left over, as there are in the original quilt. My local hospice may yet be blessed with it’s own version of this quilt.

    Blocks, blocks, and more blocks. My pile of leftovers.
  4. I have now bought a quarter inch foot. I know, it cost $65 (gulp!), and the Hubbie still shudders at the cost of that tiny piece of plastic he bought me for my birthday. But when none of your blocks are equal in size, despite starting out as similar sized pieces, you’ll really wish you had one.
  5. I learnt to measure and trim my blocks. Measurement errors compound, and it’s too late to correct the errors when  you find each strip in your quilt a different length when joining them at the end. I’m still not sure how I ended up so far out!
  6. I learnt that using the fancy stitches on my new sewing machine does not distract from the glaring errors created by ignoring the previous two points.
  7. I now choose a nice backing fabric for my quilts. After all, if you attempt to use 28 Pansy fabrics on a quilt top, the back may end up being your preferred side of the quilt, so choose a fabric you like.

    Some of the black and white fabrics I chose for the quilt back. With the black sashing and black/tan binding, it is slightly more restful than the quilt top to look at.
  8. I learnt very early that quilting is not a cheap hobby, at least in New Zealand, so I now keep an eye out for bargains. During one of my first sewing sessions, my LQS staff sold me three meters of backing fabric ($32/m), black cotton thread ($23), black sashing fabric ($26/m), and two meters of batting ($40/m) for the quilt. I was sewing, and they just helpfully cut fabric etc after telling me my requirements, and bought it to me at the table.  I felt so sick to the stomach at the bill, I almost stopped quilting for good that day. Note: the class cost only $5/day, and making sales is what makes it financially worthwhile for them.
  9. Lastly I have learnt that there is a quilt for everyone. My MIL quite likes this quilt, calling it the “Pansy Riot” quilt instead. I’m glad she likes it, since it I can now wrap it, and put it under her Christmas tree this year. It saves buying her some Avon again.

    While too big to capture in a single shot inside, this photo does capture the variety of fabrics in the quilt. And to think I had professional guidance from LQS staff during the design process!

I have washed the quilt, and it is now hanging outside on the line. I’ve found a hole in it already, yet another mistake. Maybe it’s time to compost it.



Gypsy Wife #2

ame1170_gypsy_wife_210x270_fa_page_01Woohoo, I’ve finally finished all the blocks for Gypsy Wife #2…well, all except the block I have decided to replace (see below).

I started this version pretty much straight after I finished Gypsy Wife #1. I enjoyed the piecing, the jigsaw puzzle approach to putting it together, and the big stitch hand quilting. So I dove right into the fray again, this time planning a “winter” version of the quilt. It got put aside for a while, when I managed to lose a screw in my sewing machine, which meant a four week break from sewing.

Gypsy Wife #1 on the washing line, earlier in the year. It's now on my bed, my favourite quilt.
Gypsy Wife #1 on the washing line, earlier in the year. It’s now on my bed, my favourite quilt.

The first version I made was the first quilt I have completed and kept for myself, all the others being quilts I made for fun, for utility, or as a way of using scraps. As a beginner quilter I have made lots of mistakes as I have taught myself to quilt, but as a perfectionist, I didn’t want to stare at those mistakes every day on my bed. So, I have been very generous (?) in giving away quilts to whoever wanted them, until I made one I just couldn’t bear to give away.

I love the craziness of Jen Kingwell quilts, and this quilt was the beginning of my decision to make as many of her quilts as possible. I have started one other (Midnight at the Oasis), and have amassed the supplies for a third (Small World).

The completed blocks for Gypsy Wife #2.
The completed blocks for Gypsy Wife #2.

My aim for this quilt was to make it look like a dark, gypsy shawl, with old-fashioned roses, shots of rich, dark colours, and gold tassels. I also tried to make sure I had a wide range of value between the blocks, using Widescreen by Caroline Friedlander in grey for many blocks.

Overall, there are too many fabrics to count, since many were small scraps donated to me at the NZ Quilt Symposium, held here in Palmerston North in February. It’s great to have so many scraps in this quilt as a permanent reminder of such a fun symposium, and generous quilters.P1070710

This is also the quilt in which I first started using Kaffe Fassett fabrics, a slippery slope which has led to much stash enhancement.

The Star Block, one of favourite blocks in the quilt with it's clear value differences and Kaffe cabbages.
The Star Block, one of favourite blocks in the quilt with it’s clear value differences and Kaffe cabbages.

The next step is to wander off to the bach (holiday home) in a couple of weeks, and start the construction phase. Since I have only three and a half days sewing there, I might start sewing a section or two together beforehand. It would be nice to return from my break with a completed flimsy.

I just have to replace this block..

The offending block. I know I was desperately trying to use up scraps, but really?
The offending block. I know I was desperately trying to use up scraps, but really? I might be able to get away with changing the last border, it’s the orange I find particularly hard on the eyes.

On another note, I mentioned in my last post we picked up our new dog, Miko. Last night was her first night at obedience class, only two days after we got her. She did really well, and as you can see from the photo, both she and The Hubbie concentrated hard to follow all the instructions.

Manawatu Canine Obedience Club Grounds, Ashhurst.
Manawatu Canine Obedience Club Grounds, Ashhurst.

Enjoy your week. We are huddling around the heaters here, looking forward to some”proper” Spring weather. I have abandoned all hope of growing tomatoes this year, or peppers, it’s just too cold.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday and Lets Bee Social.

Another week on…and further behind

Time seems to be passing very quickly at the moment. With my Mums health requiring our attention, we have spent quite a bit of time out of town. This means of course that all the usual weekend activities get compressed into mid-week time-slots, leaving me feeling a little tired, frazzled and over-whelmed. I forgot I had arranged for my best friend to visit this morning, leaving her to have a conversation with Daughter #1 for 3/4 hour, until I turned up from grocery shopping.

FarmersWife1930sBanner-200pxQuilting has consisted of trying to catch up on my 1930’s Farmer’s Wife Quilt, and falling further and further behind. I am about ready to call it a day, and hang up my feedsack apron strings on this one.P1070694

I am finding I just do not have the requisite concentration levels at the moment to make these blocks, and somehow my latest effort ended up quarter of an inch too small, despite using the templates, and my points are not matching well. I might just make a few more simple 6 1/2 inch blocks, then with the benefit of some sashing, sew the blocks into a cot or bassinet quilt. Book for sale, anyone?

Instead, I have moved back to my Gypsy wife #2, since I find that piecing a bit more relaxing. Just a few blocks to be done, then it’s time to put them all together.

The first half square triangle block for Gypsy Wife #2.
The first half square triangle block for Gypsy Wife #2.

This last weekend we managed to fit in checking in on Mum, picking up our new dog Miko, and attending the Taranaki Rhododendron Festival. Oh, and checking out a new quilt shop in Hawera.

Firstly, the quilt shop. I had been informed a few years earlier that there were no fabric shops left in Hawera, only a shop selling a little wool. Since Stratford is only half an hour away, and in possession of a very fine patchwork and wool shop (In Stitches), this was only a small problem. I felt sorry for the local quilters of course, imagining them marooned in their small town, without the benefit of fabric acquisition at a moments notice.

While sipping a mocha, and wandering down the main road in Hawera on Saturday morning, I noticed a new(ish) sign advertising fabric. There was very little cotton fabric for sale at Gabrielle’s sewing and alterations, but the owner handed me a small card, and gave directions to a local quilt shop. As it turns out, I have passed Wildflower Creations every time I drove through Hawera for the last four years. They have a lovely large classroom area, lots of lovely fabrics (including a box of $10 specials), and stock a wide range of Clover accessories, embroidery threads, and notions.

A 2016 project offered by Wildflower Creations.
A 2016 being project offered by Wildflower Creations.

I restrained myself since I had The Hubbie in tow, and he was making rude comments suggesting I had no willpower around fabric. I shall go back without him at some stage!

The Hubbie, he's a little camera shy.
The Hubbie, he’s a little camera shy.

We dragged Mum out to see some gardens, mainly to take her mind off the Rugby World Cup Final (which NZ won!). The gardens in the Rhododendron Festival were gorgeous, as always. Since we had limited time this year, we targeted the gardens of Bells Block and the surrounding area. Last of all was the garden belonging to the owners of Big Jim’s Nursery. It was splendiferous! P1070638We had to rush since the afternoon was coming to a close, having only an hour left in the day, but lingered in the New Zealand themed garden. We enjoyed a seat overlooking the river…

Mum and I...
Mum and I…

And would love to have been able to bake a trout from the river over their fire pitP1070653

The shadows falling around the birch trees bought to mind all the quilts I have seen over the last year using these straight, mottled trunks as inspiration.P1070669We returned home on Sunday with our new dog, Miko. Tonight we start obedience training, where hopefully we can learn some new skills. I am used to farm dogs which don’t require walking, never come in the house, and spend hours in their runs waiting for their next job. It is going to be very different keeping a dog in town. Since she is an ex-farm dog, we have to teach her to play, and instill some confidence in her that disobedience will not result in physical punishment.

Wish us luck!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday and Lets Bee Social.