Saturday, 3 January 2015

Something old, something new...

Some quilts come together quickly, occasionally a little to efficiently for complete satisfaction...sometimes it is immensely satisfying to conceive and execute the whole thing in a short period of time...and sometimes there are quilts which take longer than you anticipate to finish.

Oh yes, I have many WIPs (works in progress) in my collection.  Some are completed tops that while lovely, don't have a known purpose yet and so have not had the life breathed into them.  Some are blocks from bee circles, which need to feel owned and loved or at least just finished off and gifted or donated to their forever homes.  Some are learning curves shall we say, ones where I was trying a new technique and got a bit stuck along the way...

The gypsy quilt probably falls best into this last category although it was a quilt idea without the perfect destination, until now.  I started it during a class what I thought was a little while ago (a friend in the same class, on seeing the finished product said "Love it!  Isn't this the one you started when you were expecting (your 4 year old son)?"  Hmmm.  So yes, it started life as a learning curve, learning how to incorporate unconventional fabrics into a traditional cotton quilt, learning to be bold with colour and fabric choices...In fact learning lots of things I actually feel pretty comfortable with nearly 5 years down the track.

My friends' marriage this year inspired me to revisit this quilt as a gift for them.  I had in my head that I had made decent progress on it and "just needed to finish it off".  One length of pieced sashing and 2 completed blocks out of a 12 block, double bordered and sashed quilt was what I found.  Better get to work then.  The fabrics I found in the project box blew me away - I had set them all aside for completing this project so there were an amazing amount of (in particular) Kaffe Fassett and Jan Mullen designs I hadn't seen literally for years.  It was a lovely surprise and a real Aladdin's cave of treasures.

It took longer than expected due to other time constraints, a bride who was very laid back about when she received it and the fact I initially just sat and stared at the fabrics, what I had achieved and the huge amount I still had to do.  We had to spend time getting to know each other again.  Once we were reacquainted though, progress was smooth and organic.  I started to become inspired about the next step  - what fabrics to emphasize in the borders, how to back it, how to quilt it, what hand details to add, what sort of binding it needed.

And here it is finished:

 And a detail of the stitching...
I am really glad I progressed this quilt for them, especially after my initial reaction at seeing how (not) far past me had actually got with it!  I can't see a lot of these quilts in my future, however I can see a lot more unconventional materials in my quilts - the interest and luxury they can add makes them really valuable little gems.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Modern Quilting, Modern Women

Crystal of Two Little Aussie Birds is running a series of interviews with prominent female quilters on her blog - take a look, it's really interesting getting to know the women behind the quilts.

She is also running a link up so that the rest of us can share a little about ourselves and what it means to be a modern, female quilter.  So here are my answers to her questions.

1. Tell us about how you started quilting and how you found modern quilting.
I started quilting in 2009.  My mother had unsuccessfully tried to get me to learn how to sew as a teenager but I staunchly refused, considering sewing something far too domestic and girly for me to be doing as a young feminist.  I avoided the sewing classes at school (no such luck with the typing classes but more of that anon) and was a bit smug about this.  However, as I entered the workforce I discovered that touch typing was possibly one of the most useful skills I had learned and started to regret my earlier attitude to sewing.  As I got older I became more interested in hand sewing and embroidery but it took me until 2009 to accept I wanted to learn how to sew.  I think the final straw was that I was involved in making a block for a wedding quilt for a friend and all I could manage to my shame was fussy cutting out a nice piece of material as a block and my mother in law helped me with this!  I loved the idea of quilting though and so decided I would learn how to sew by making quilts.

A google search put me in touch with my first teacher when I realised my limitations.  Trish has been a wonderful teacher, mentor and friend and it was her who introduced me to the modern aesthetic.  After meeting her I discovered the local modern quilting group through a magazine and started chatting with them online.  Once I got my hooks into modern quilting there was no stopping me!  I have become very involved in modern quilting facebook groups, swaps and bees, have been introduced to Instagram (@Jemimaquilts) and of course started a blog and then my own facebook page pretty early on in my journey.  I love the fact forums like the facebook groups allow a supportive place for people to discuss and share their ideas and creations and places like pinterest are an organic encyclopedia of ideas and patterns.  If  it had been a time when all I was exposed to what was going on in Australia, or even just Perth, I think I would be in a rut by now.  Instead I feel I am just on the tip of the iceberg with so many avenues to explore thanks to our global quilting family.

2. What does it mean to you to be a modern quilter and a modern woman? 
To me, any woman who has ever created quilts in the style of their day and community were and are modern quilters.  It was refreshing to me to discover that quilting was indeed still moving with the times too because I really found that after reading a few more traditional magazines, browsing more traditional fabrics and trying to make a traditional item or two, I was getting pretty depressed about the whole creative process.  I just wasn't drawn to these things, they didn't sit comfortably with my love of colour and desire to break the rules.

As for reconciling my identity as a modern woman with being a quilter, I think the two sit together very easily.  For me (and many others), quilting is a creative process, which happens to generally have a practical outcome.  It is art.  As I have an art history background, I have spent quite a bit of time exploring the ideas of what it is to be a female artist as well as the definition that was made for ages between art and craft.  I think the lines are blurring more there now and quilting is definitely both.  Not that we should worry about pigeonholes.  As modern women we should be doing whatever pleases us in our leisure time or as a career and if that is quilting then so be it.

3. Which quilt that you have made represents you and why?
Every quilt I have made represents me in some way. However, if I were to choose one, which was a turning point for me, I would choose this modern medallion quilt:
It is still just the quilt top too by the way, which is an important statement to myself at the moment because the next step will include some free motion quilting, which I have been working on as well as straight line.  This thought process and planning of the quilting is showing me how the quilting itself is an integral but also independent part of the creative process.  Something it has taken me a while to come to understand and appreciate.

This quilt was doing as part of Crystal's online quilt along.  I feel so connected with this quilt because it was shared at every step with the wonderful online community we created and also because I took so many risks with it.  I deliberately challenged myself with the palette, the paper piecing and the minor alterations to the pattern, which Crystal supported and encouraged of all of us.  As it was a medallion quilt I had no real idea about how it would turn out when finished.  Every border was surprise and fortunately for me, always a wonderful one.  I had to trust my choices and aesthetic completely when it came to this quilt, which made it an incredible learning process.  I have to admit I was surprised about how well it turned out - far better than I expected from my slightly shaky paper piecing start with what seemed like a huge expanse of low volume fabric.  I was also surprised about how well received it has been online and on Instagram.  It has given me a huge confidence boost, both in my creative abilities and in how my work is now being perceived by people I respect and admire.

4. How do you connect with other modern quilters? What does it mean to you to have this sisterhood of modern women? 

I am an active member of our local modern quilt guild, which is new and growing, which is a great thing I think.  I am connecting further afield with modern quilters online, through blogs, facebook groups and other social media.  The conversations, ideas and images are so inspiring and reassuring.  There is nothing like being part of this international community where we all speak the same language.

I don't have any daughters to pass this onto but in the true modern quilting fashion, my young son is showing an interest in what I do and in the creative process.  He has had his first experience of sewing too and really enjoyed it.  Maybe we have another Quilt Dad, Molli Sparkles, Bill Kerr or Thomas Knauer in the making...and that in itself is the joy of modern quilting - where we are all quilters and the fact we are men or women becomes irrelevant.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Swaps and Pouches

This is a bit of a catch up post to share pictures of some gifted items and showcase my new obsession - zip pouches!

Since learning how to insert a zip I have gone a little zippy bag crazy, which is no bad thing as they are varied, versatile, generally well received as gifts and are a great way to play with different fabric combinations and ideas instead of committing to a large quilt.  Cushions are now a bit of a favourite too for the same reasons but more of those another time. :)

This first one is a quickie  - a little Hello Kitty themed pouch for Mr 4's little friend, Miss 6.  It was for her birthday and whipped up quickly when we received the Hello Kitty invitation to the Hello Kitty themed birthday a few weeks ago.  She apparently loves it and is using it for her pencils.

I used Noodlehead's "open wide zip pouch" tutorial for this pouch.  I would link but it seems the site is down, hopefully only temporarily as it is a great tutorial.

Also using this tutorial I made this pouch for my very first swap gift:

 The theme was "Fairy Tale" and we were matched with a partner that would (hopefully) align with out sewing tastes and style.  My partner was the lovely Heidi from the USA, which was very exciting.  One of her likes was Red Riding Hood and she liked a bit of Heather Ross fabric amongst other things...
I made this pouch by improvisationally piecing the outer using low volume, woodland themed fabrics to try and capture the idea of a snowy woodland walk....
...and lined it with this fantastic Japanese Red Riding Hood fabric for a pop of colour and unexpected surprise inside!
 Because it was a swap, and you can never have enough little treats in a swap, I also made this little hexagonal coin purse/ear phone holder and allowed the Red Riding Hood fabric to take center stage.
I was a bit limited in how much I could send before postage would require a second mortgage but managed to squeeze in a few Australian themed goodies with these two items - some Aussie fabric fat quarters and some sweet well as a cute Red Riding Hood themed applique.

I can't wait for mine to arrive now!


Been absent a bit longer than anticipated and therefore have a couple of posts to do.  You know how it is, working on secret and not so secret squirrel projects that you *can't* post about (or forget to post about, ahem) and then they all creep up on you!

So this first post is dedicated to a quilt top I whipped up in a frenzy of inspiration (and as I admitted on facebook, procrastination), and I am rather glad I did.

A few months back I joined my very first charm swap run by the super organised and lovely MsMidge.  Why did I join?  Because it was for fabric by possibly my most favouritest designer Bonnie and Camille!  (And not just because the current line is called Miss Kate, I'm not that shallow, honest...)

So for the uninitiated, a charm swap is a bunch of fabric enthusiasts tracking down fabrics (and sometimes trying to outdo each other), sometimes hard to find ones, cutting them up into little pieces (charm squares which are 5") and then sending them to the organiser who then drives herself crazy ensuring everyone in the swap gets one of each 112 charms...and then most people make something with them.

I am not a huge charm square fiend.  I have always found them a bit limiting but loved the idea of having 112 pieces of Bonnie and Camille fabric.  And of course once you have it, you get the urge to do something with it.  My urge just happened to hit late at night when I was trying to force myself to finish another project I wasn't so inspired about.  Hence it becoming a procrastination quilt.

I had found a few charm quilt designs on the web, which I liked as they kept the integrity of the charms (ie they were squares :) ) and this appealed (read, I didn't have to do much more cutting).  I decided to challenge myself to use as many of the 112 charms as I could and to use a solid other than white/off white or grey...given I wasn't challenging my cutting abilities.

I sorted the charms into colour families - yellow/orange, green, neutrals, reds, blues and pinks and set to work... 

Border after border like a square medallion quilt I suppose!
And this was the result - All except 4 of the charms were used, so I was pretty pleased about that.
The turquoise? aqua? or as I like to call it "Bonnie and Camille blue" was just what I wanted.  I can't remember what it is call exactly but it is in fact a linen and the pattern, I suppose, although inspired by things I have seen, is my own design and measurement.

The combination of florals, checks and pretty designs which Bonnie and Camille fabrics are known for plus the addition of the solid gives this quilt top a really retro 50s feel, which I love.  I can't wait for the opportunity to quilt it and finish it off!

The link up for the Bonnie and Camille Charm Along with Ms Midge runs until October 27.  Looking forward to seeing inspiring charm quilt ideas!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Hedgehogs and squirrels and owls, oh my!

At a very enjoyable baby sprinkle (apparently this is name du jour for baby showers for second babies...) I finally gave my friend the quilted wall hanging she had requested for her baby boy's nursery.

There had been some guidelines (most of which I listened to :)) which included - "greens and browns please...and woodland animals, no, jungle animals.  Definitely woodland animals."  So I started making it before she could change her mind.  Fortunately she had ordered a decal with woodland creatures so it now seemed unlikely...

Green and brown can be very chic but also a little muted for this colour obsessed quilter so I took a lead from the aforementioned decal and threw in a bit of orange and blue too.   Just to liven things up a bit.

The main "picture" fabrics I chose were from the "Bluebell Park " line by Kate and Birdie.  I love them so much!

I had bought some of the beige park themed fabric along with all the supporting fabrics while I was in Melbourne in anticipation of this project but discovered that I wanted more colour and cute stuff so broke up my charm squares from the range and used all the cute and colourful ones from that too.  The green background fabrics are both Riley Blake pirate fabrics and I just love the Japanese apples!  Such a zing of orange.

This photo was taken when I thought it was finished.  More of that anon...I quilted it simply in the ditch and used a fusible, lightweight batting as it is going to be hung on a wall rather than used as a cot quilt, so the lightness and slight stiffness of that sort of material was perfect for this project.  I also added a hanging sleeve.

I sat around admiring my handiwork for a while (as you do) and came to the conclusion that a) it needed something else and b) I was bored and wanted a hand sewing project.  So lead by the naive charm and texture of the prints I embarked on some hand quilting detail. 

This was the result, not particularly clear and unfortunately with me in it because I forgot to take a photo at home!

Basically I hand stitched in orange embroidery floss around each of the orange diamonds, which really lifted the look.  Overall I was really pleased with this little item, it was a lot of fun to make!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Many, many crosses...

I was hoping to get some better images of this quilt now that it has gone to its very happy owner because frankly I didn't have the space to photograph it properly. I really needed a balcony because it was a whopper. This is the finished product being shown at our guild's monthy meeting...

My client provided all of the fabrics after our initial consultation and a few suggestions about how things might look from me.  She wanted predominantly greens and blues with little pops of colour.  Crosses (being a very well prepared person she came with a pinterest board full of cross quilt designs) were a must.  After some discussion and thought we agreed that this "very now" interlocking cross design would bring a modern but also classic touch to her very classic and slightly retro choice of colours and fabrics.

After a lot of planning (thank you IPad apps) and thought about how I would approach such a large project I decided to piece the crosses as nine patches rather than rows.  It worked for me in this case and blocks fitted together like a jigsaw.  I made plenty of mistakes in placement so there was much reverse sewing, however errors were discovered earlier rather than when the cross was embedded in the *middle* of the quilt! 

I took on this project with the caveat that I probably wouldn't be able to quilt it (ha!) and glad I did because by the time I had finished the top I could barely wrangle it single handed.  So off to my friend and long arm quilter it went.  We agreed on a more organic design in the mid green that runs through the quilt to give it some softness and contrast.  The leaf design can be seen in this detail:

I had pieced a backing out of some of the leftover green, unused turquoise (there was hardly anything left of the prints by this stage, it really came down to the line!) and some of the 30s feel fabric that didn't make it to the front of the quilt but was quite lovely.  Even choosing the binding took time!  We discussed plains, plaids and finally settled on the blue and white stripe that appears in some of the crosses.  Got to love a stripy binding. :)

So here it is - the oversized king sized quilt on top of my much smaller queen bed.  Doesn't really do it justice but you get the idea.  It looked much more at home on her giant bed in her beautiful bedroom.  Which was the point really.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Modern Medallion Quilt Along - The Finishing Line!

Finally the last 3 borders are on my modern medallion quilt!  They were a lot less time consuming than the "Cross my Heart" border (thank goodness or it might have been a few more months before the end). :)

So here they are:

"Stuck in the middle"

 This was a regular kind of border, with a little twist of a different fabric inserted in the centre of each row.  Hence stuck in the middle.  I wanted something defining, that balanced the saturation of the orange border so I put a visual full stop there so to speak by using two different teal greens, both with polka dots. 

"Equal Rights"

This is just a peek at the next border.  This one was heavy on the low volume so the wonky 60 degree triangles (which came together quickly and beautifully) had to really stand up and be counted.  A couple of people in the quilt along group had mentioned that my quilt reminded them of a Summer garden.  Great compliment and a bit of an inspiration at this point.  I decided to go with my more colourful fabrics such as the Hello Tokyo print used in the wavy border.  I also introduced a final print not found elsewhere, the one with flowers and butterflies, which is from Love U by Deb Strain.  The colours worked perfectly at this stage and reinforced the garden idea.  The teal Mirror Ball Dot ensures there isn't too much whimsy and fluff and makes the orange border from the same range feel less lonely. :)
 "I Was Framed" is the last but certainly not least border on the quilt. 

It was possibly the most challenging when it came to choosing the "right" fabrics.  Technically it wasn't hard as it was very similar to "Stuck in the Middle".  I say "right" because really there is no definitive answer when making a quilt as I hope this series of posts has pointed out.  In this case I could have gone low volume and let the quilt wash into softness towards the edges or I could have reinforced the teal or...
What I chose was a lime green linen feel solid which appears very briefly as highlights in the crosses, geese and central medallion.  On the corners I introduced a final print not found anywhere but which has the perfect blend of greens and oranges.  This print from the Love range by Amy Butler was a bit of a gamble and took some auditioning with other fabrics because I knew I wanted it but didn't know if it belonged.  It is a little softer around the edges than the other, more graphic prints but I think it sits well with them.  Together I think they pull the quilt together, give a conclusion to the introduction of the centre and make it all make sense.

And here it is billowing beautifully in the breeze after the (what seems like incessant) rain.
If you are interested in seeing what others have done with this challenge then look here and follow the link up!  It's amazing how different one pattern can look...