A final finish for 2015

It’s that time of the year when blog overviews are being posted, and goals set for the next year.

I decided to buck the trend, and post my final (flimsy) finish of 2015.

Gypsy Wife #2, the winter version. My main change is the 12.5 inch block to the top left, and the blocks under it.

I went all out this last week, and sewed up the second Gypsy Wife quilt, plus a little extra. I added an extra 12.5 inches to the quilt, since I found it just a little too small for my bed. Of course my addition seems glaringly obvious, but I pulled it off while brewing my last migraine of the year.P1070793

It is now going to sit in a pile for a while, since my efforts prior to Christmas saw me run out of batting. Once I stock up again, I will be attacking this one with some long-stitch hand quilting with perle cottons. I might just have to wait for the temperatures to go down though.

The funny thing about this quilt is that I get to the end of it and could quite happily start another one. That’s not going to happen though, since I am planning to finish both the other Jen Kingwell quilts I have on the go.P1070798

Which brings me to my plans for 2016. Rather than concentrating on quantity, I am planning to sew fewer, but more complex quilts in 2016. I received a copy of Kathy Doughty’s book “Making Quilts – the promise of joy” for Christmas, and the book cover sums up where I want to go next year. I would like to conquer dresden plates and everything spiky! I foresee a lot of paper piecing happening.Book

Have a Happy New Year, wherever you are. And if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, keep dry and safe.

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts.


Merry Christmas

imageOne day left, and all that is left to do is the last minute cleaning and dessert making. The garden is weeded, the deck chairs have had their spider residents removed, and the house has even had a little wash down.

Yes, this year we are the hosts for the big family get together. Nine adults, and one teenage boy. I had girls, but I have been advised by those in the know, that the teenager will eat as much as two adults.  I am prepared!

So, all that remains is to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Christmas countdown is on

There are quite a few days until that day when a fat jolly man squeezes down our teeny, tiny chimney, leaving me fabric, patterns, and chocolate. Luckily for us it is summer here, well sort of, and we don’t have to let the fire go out to avoid awkward questions around scorched imaginary friends.

Despite the week and half to go, I feel like there is a countdown going on my head. I can almost hear the seconds ticking away, the pressure mounting.

The lounge is in a state of semi-chaos. The tree is decorated sparsely, since we have energetic cats with ornament fetishes. The floor is doubling as a quilt studio again, while I sneakily baste a Christmas quilt.

I’m having these little Christmas-related conversations in my head:

Have you found a cheesecake recipe? Oh my gosh, can you actually afford the ingredients for that? I mean really, that much marscapone? Do they think I have a house cow? But then, it will be delicious…Maybe I’ll just make the condensed milk version again…(resigned sigh)”

How big a present should I buy for the bloke who doesn’t buy presents, eats enormous amounts of food despite not bringing any to share, then sits all day reading and ignoring us? Damn, I feel guilty just thinking this….big, expensive bottle of wine it is.

The conversations go on, and on. And so I started the day at 4am, with a list of the days activities already formed in my mind.

However, most of the list will not get done because I am now sleep deprived. So, I prioritised and finished the remaining presents to be posted away. “Lucky’ for me, most of my family sort of invited themselves here for Christmas Day, so I don’t have to post much. I have concentrated on making pillowcases for the extended family, with my  second youngest brother receiving a classic Possum pillowcase. As a hunter, I’m sure having an exotic pest species on his pillowcase will fill him with Christmas cheer.

These look astonishingly like the Australian possum which has invaded our nation. My brother spent some time trapping them, so this will bring back memories.

With that off the list, I have started quilting the last Christmas quilt. I’m trying not to count down the rows of quilting, but it is hard to maintain enthusiasm for straight line quilting. I am stitching in the ditch and a quarter of an inch from the main sashing seams. After that, I’m not too sure how I will quilt the individual blocks. I’m sure inspiration will strike somewhere around 4am tomorrow morning.

Must keep sewing, must keep sewing…

What I am really looking forward to is finishing up all this Christmas sewing, and then I can return to my Gypsy Wife #2. My design board is standing in a dark corner of the quilt room, waiting for me to turn my attention to it again. One section left to sew together, then I can attach all the sections together. I am looking forward to seeing how my fabric choices look in the end.

One dusty design board, awaiting my attention.

I have learnt this Christmas, that while it is good to be able to gift quilted and sewn items, I really need to get going sooner in the year. I have made  five quilts and many pillowcases in the last little while, and I think the schedule has been a little overwhelming. Partly this was bought about by our trip to Australia which sucked up a bit of the budget, but largely by our decision to do some house painting this summer. With lead based paint on our house, we are biting the bullet and getting the professionals in to do the job.

Partially assembled Gypsy Wife.

I have also learnt that I need to buy bigger pieces of fabric. Fat quarters are great for scrappy quilts, but I think 1m is a better length to put in stash. The pillowcases all needed a 27 inch length of fabric, and I had few pieces of fabric of sufficient length. So, in 2016, I will buy more fabric (hooray). I started practising last weekend at the Busy Bee Quilt Shop in Wellington, picking up some clearance fabric in 1-4m lengths, since it was clearance, and only $6/m (usually $27-$32/m in NZ).

I also plan to join up with a mid-year Christmas QAL next year, and get a little more organised about Christmas present making. Who knows, by November, I might have my sewing done.

By the end of this week I hope to be binding the last quilt, leaving next week for cooking, and house cleaning. How is your week looking?

Linking up eventually with WIP Wednesday, Lets Bee Social and Needle and Thread Thursday.

More Christmas quilts

Just a quick catch up.

When I am not sewing at the moment, I am hovering over the oven, watching the timer. Two Christmas cakes, and two Christmas puddings later, I feel like I can just sew for a few days.

The last two quilts are for my children, and since they don’t read my blog, I can reveal at least a little of one of the quilts before the big day.

Daughter #1’s quilt. The blocks and sashing, measuring about 76 inches in length. Plenty long enough for a single bed I think.

Daughter #1’s quilt is a crazy 9 patch, sort of. It’s what happens when you make a crazy 9 patch, then sew one set of strips the wrong way on to the block. It actually added to the feel of the quilt, so I left it. Okay, I couldn’t face unpicking all those blocks….so I decided it was a design feature. Nobody has picked up on it so far, so all is good.P1070768

Daughter # 2’s quilt is a collection of all my 5 inch squares cut from the Recycling Centre fabric picked up earlier in the year. All summer she takes a towel outside, lies it in the shade, and reads a book. Then puts the towel in the wash, for you know who to wash.

So, this is a picnic rug of sorts, purely selfishly made so I can avoid washing excess laundry when I would rather be relaxing reading a book, and nibbling Christmas cake. The quilt top is mostly finished, but I am dithering over whether to include a border. Any ideas on the best size for a picnic quilt?

Linking up with WIP Wednesday, Lets Bee Social and Scraptastic Tuesday.



Christmas quilt finishes

For the first time ever, I am giving home-made quilty presents this year for Christmas. It’s a bit nerve-wracking, and I am fighting the urge to run out and buy things to supplement the gifts I have made. Nevertheless, the gifts will be given and I will hope the glaring (to me) mistakes pass by unnoticed.

We took the quilts to the local rose garden this morning, taking advantage of a break in the somewhat changeable weather.

The “Twilight in the garden” quilt for Catherine.
We had trouble with our arms being too short to extend the quilt fully for the photos. Note to self: take The Hubbie along next time for added arm length.

First out of the gate is a quilt for a friend, Catherine. Since she has never owned a quilt, and we have gotten to know each other so well over the last year or so, it seemed a good idea to make something just for her. Purple is her favourite colour, so I decided to finish a quilt that started life as a Midnight at the Oasis quilt, but got side-tracked from the first block  into a medallion quilt.

I had fun designing each round, using the purple batik strips to build the quilt to the size needed for the next round. It was my first quilt using quilt math, orange peel and flying geese blocks. Overall, it’s very “spotty”, which is why it was rejected by Daughter #1 as a quilt.

We had fun trying to photograph the quilt, as my daughter’s arms weren’t quite long enough, resulting in an attack of the giggles.P1070754

The rotunda is a frequent place for picnics and weddings in the garden, but today we had the gardens almost to ourselves. We have been thinking of having Christmas lunch here, since there are even free BBQ’s close by, though highly sought after. The number coming to lunch has just increased by another two though, so it might be easier to just stay at home. I might still use disposable plates though, and force everyone to eat outside on a picnic blanket.P1070762

The next Christmas finish is a cheater quilt for my Mum. I wanted a quick quilt for her to use while curled up in her new Laz-i-boy chair we bought last month. Nana naps are now a daily occurrence for her, and this will come in quite handy.

Mum’s “Nana nap” quilt

The quilt back is a favourite fabric of mine, and it’s with difficulty that I parted with it. I know the idea with fabric is to use it, but it is awfully hard to part with some fabrics.

The back of the Nana Nap quilt.

I might just have to collect (curate) a little more of this fabric, perhaps in the other two colour-ways.

Back to the grind again. I have figs and ginger to  chop for a Christmas pudding, and a quilt guild meeting to get ready for. I have volunteered for the local committee, and tonight is my first meeting, the Christmas Party. Great timing huh!

Linking up eventually with TGIFF, Finish it up Friday, and Crazy mom Quilts.

My Small World progress


I really wanted to join in the “My Small World” QAL hosted by Kerry of verykerryberry a few months ago. If you have previously read my blog, you will know that I have a tendency to miss QAL’s, finding out about the details sometime after the event. In this particular instance, it simply took too long for the Spring edition of Quiltmania to reach my local magazine retailer, and I missed the boat.

Section 1 using some cool scraps I picked up in Stratford last month, and bits from the Arts Recycling Centre. I included some “blank” space to embroider in some signage.

I was determined to make the quilt though, and since Gypsy Wife #2 is almost done (one section left to join), I took advantage of a week away at a bach (holiday home) in Taupo to tackle this quilt.

Section 2 and I fell in love with the little curved doorways.

The decision to go away was made suddenly, and I had only a couple of hours to organize food, bedding, equipment, quilting paraphernalia and myself, to get out the door. So, of course I left a few things behind. Since these included the materials necessary to make templates or do paper piecing, I had to approach this quilt in a rather different manner from the instructions in places.

Section 3 had a Y seam in it that I could have avoided, but I didn’t figure that out until the next day.

Out went the templates, and in came hand drawn diagrams and foundation and paper piecing. This was originally undertaken on the one piece of paper I could filch from the bach guestbook, then on the pages of a womens magazine. I took great delight in sacrificing the pages advertising weight loss competitions and diet food from the magazine. Luckily I had a pencil and pencil sharpener, and both were put to good use in drafting all the little chimneys, flying geese and economy blocks.

Section4 and the clamshells. With no supplies, these got raw edge appliquéd on. I forgot my hand sewing supplies and template plastic, so it seemed the best option.

I never realized how much I relied upon the internet, until I didn’t have it to research quicker methods to construct blocks. I fell back on easy methods such as stitch and flip to construct these economy blocks and flying geese, having had plenty of experience with the method from constructing other Jen Kingwell quilts. I took one look at the 2 inch pinwheels though and decided life was too short, and I would design something else in keeping with the theme of the pattern.

Where I just didn’t like a block (e.g. the arrows), I re-designed the pattern to include more of the blocks I did like. I really liked the little doors and chimneys, so my version has more of these. I wanted the quilt to remind me of trips to Lyon, Tallinn and other medieval cities. I want to look at it and remember round watch-towers, and the muted colours of southern France. Likewise I made two sets of flying geese, and made one set facing the wrong directions. This is a reminder of our coach backing up tight roads in the Alps after meeting another coach on a tight corner, then going down impossibly narrow streets and getting stuck.

Section 6 was the last section completed, featuring my “lost” geese. I kept this section light coloured to remind me of a part of Estonia I visited where a nearby kiln draped the surrounding landscape and houses in a grey sediment. Not great for the locals health, but environmental concerns in the days of Soviet rule were lower on the agenda than productivity targets.

I finished one section a day, often cutting the pieces for the next section later in the evening, since I didn’t have access to Sky or Netflix, and had neglected to bring many books to read. Without dishes, cooking (other than reheating something in the microwave) or other responsibilities, I easily managed the sections on schedule.

The next step is to finish the remaining section (Part 5), then start embellishing the quilt. I didn’t take any yellow fabrics suitable for the sunnier part of the quilt, so I couldn’t really progress any further at the time. I also want to record my food and fibre related adventures by including shop labels lifted from my photographs of trips abroad. I hope to stitch in some signs on the spaces I have left for that purpose.

Those lovely terracotta coloured roofs in Tallinn that I included in the quilt. Is there a name for this style of roof?

If you have never travelled to Estonia, and are looking for a magical place to visit, I can only recommend it. It is a country that has emerged from a difficult history with an immense pride in their culture, and tourism is a major source of income needed to continue the recovery. The medieval town centre in Tallinn is beautiful, though it can be overtaken by tourists from  cruise ships some days. The knitting  traditions of Estonia are worth the trip alone, and I spent many days tracking down knitting samples and books for Daughter #2 while there. The National Museum in Tartu has a large collection of knitted garments capturing the colour work patterns of the country, and researchers have recreated many of these patterns on gloves and scarves for sale. My trip to Estonia was easily my favourite trip abroad in the last decade, though that might have something to do with having just handed in my doctoral thesis prior to leaving.

An arched doorway in an old building, something else I repeated a lot in the quilt. Photo taken somewhere in Estonia (I am really bad at labelling photos).

Have a great week. We are hoping to put up a Christmas tree this week, meanwhile the first Christmas cake is made, and the pudding mix is soaking in brandy. Things feel almost under control!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday, Lets Bee Social and Scraptastic Tuesday.