Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A quilt for our friend

This is a post a long time coming and a long time in the making. Today the final chapter of this quilt's journey was written, so I can now write about it.

 I will start with what I was telling my friend today about how I see quilts and why I love quilting.  Quilting for me is not just about the creative process although of course this does play a large part.  Quilting for me is also something I can escape to when I need comfort.  She bakes, I quilt.  It is a therapeutic and meditative process.  Quilts also represent care, love and comfort to me.  They wrap us up and keep us warm and cherished.  The love with which they are made preserves us.  When I made my son's first quilt before he was even born, it wasn't just a decorative item, it was a hug to my unborn child.  Quilts are loaded with history, with nurturing, cooperation and community.

Our little community lost a dear friend to cancer last year.  I didn't know him like others did but a series of events brought me to our friend, his wife at the hospital where he was staying towards the end.  It was circumstance that I met with her there that day but it left a lasting impression on me.  Apart from our conversations that Winter afternoon and the stunning view over the bay from the lounge where we sat, the thing that struck me most were the quilts.  There were quilts on the walls and there were quilts on the beds in the palliative ward.  It was beautiful, colourful and homely.  

When he died I wanted to do something.  I wanted to quilt.  Moreover, I wanted to make a quilt for this amazing place and the amazing people in it, in memory of this man.

So I made this quilt.  The centre was made from jelly rolls (2 1/2" strips) of Tula Pink's "The Birds and The Bees" range.  I had wanted to choose fabrics that contained little nods to the couple and their relationship.  Ladybird motifs had been requested by his wife where possible and this line had it all.  The ladybirds,  the specific colour green we all associate with her, the natural, Darwinian and 19th century organic motifs they both loved, geometric shapes that reminded her of his passion for games and computers...and of course the colours were vibrant, warm and would appeal to both men and women.

I made a simple fence and rail design, not wanting to overcomplicate such amazingly detailed fabrics and bordered and backed it with Anna Maria Horner fabric from her "Innocent Crush" series.  The scale of her designs just worked with the size of the quilt and as a foil to the intricate detail of the central fabric.

The binding is the ladybird fabric in the blue and purple line so there are little ladybirds running around the outside of the quilt.

I had it professionally quilted to ensure it was well bedded down and ready for many, many washes and some constant wear and love.  

Today the two of us delivered this quilt to its final home at in the hospital's palliative care ward.  When the nurses placed it on the bed in a spare room it looked like it had always been there.  Warm, welcoming and full of comfort.  The little room came to life and the quilt looked like it had found its purpose in life.  I hope it brings peace and warmth to many who need it.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Quilt Retreat

I had an absolutely fantabulous weekend last weekend at the PMQG quilting retreat down in Dwellingup at the beautiful Wine Tree.  It was filled with creativity, cider, awesome ladies, wine, lots of laughs, fabric, fruit wine, cheezles, sharing of ideas, an Italian costume night, great food which we didn't have to cook and of course chocolate.
                                        Hard at work...not a glass of wine in sight!

Apart from one yoga class, two brief walks (the second being a "walk" involving wine and cider tasting up at the main house!) and a little bit of reading in bed my time was spent sewing...and it was blissful.  I made good progress on my reverse applique project and when that started to require too much focus I switched to hand sewing and quilting my quilt as you go 1930s reproduction print hexagons.  They are mounting up nicely and might deserve a post of their own soon.

My main focus however, was on completing my blocks of the month and quilting bee blocks and I got all four made.  Here they are!

 Missing your Kiss from our Modern Blocks book...
Diamond Ripples from the same book.  This is my BOM choice.  I wanted to challenge my precision and "classic" techniques.  Boy did I do that!
Here are my bee blocks, my current bee does them in pairs - the queen bee for the month I was working on chose Circle of Squares as her block...
I can't wait until next time!  In the meantime I will have to satisfy myself with working on the Circle of Flying Geese block a few did as a challenge during the retreat.  That way I can keep the memory alive. :)  Now I just have to wait for my machine to come back from its service all tuned and ready to go...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Buzz, Buzz! And some more blocks.

With the onset of chilly Winter weather I have been hitting the sewing machine hard.  So much so I think it needs a service but with a number of projects needing work and an upcoming retreat (can't wait!) I think it might have to hang in there for a bit longer.
I have recently finished a larger quilt, which is to be donated, but it deserves a post of its own at a later date once it has been handed over.  In the meantime I am working on a couple of projects, a batik sampler quilt for myself and some blocks for a quilting bee.
I haven't been in a bee for a while and am really enjoying this one.  The briefs are not too demanding but are challenging enough to make them interesting and are based on the theme of scraps and solids.  Here are the completed months so far:

Sprouts block:  We had to make 4 sprouts as they are rectangles rather than squares.  I chose to do pink, dark blue, light blue and purple. 

 I really liked being able to use little pieces of my hedgehog and Eiffel tower materials. :)

While waiting for the next set of instructions I moved onto the samples for my month - a woven block.  This is a pretty easy design to make but I wanted (and want the others) to play with light and dark - especially in the use of the 2 purple "ribbons".  I think it will look really effective and clean when all put together.

 Funnily enough (obviously great minds and all that) two of our participants chose to both do a Granny Square block inspired by crocheted granny squares.  One wanted red, black and white -
 The other just wanted our favourite scraps -
I love the graphic nature of the red and black together and the contrast of the really modern lines in one and the more traditional feel of the other and how they still work together.
The second pair showcases some beautiful Anna Maria Horner scraps I had left over from the special quilt I just completed (the fabric is from the "Innocent Crush" line) and some citrus coloured fabrics from my stash.  In case you didn't get the citrus theme the centre block is a lemon print. :)  I don't often work with these colours but was inspired after trying them out in another block of the month...which brings me to...

 Alleyways.  Each month at our PMQG meetings someone chooses a block for everyone to make from this book.  This month was Alleyways.  For some reason, I think because our lemon, lime and orange trees are in fruit, I thought a citrus theme would be nice.
This was the block from a few months ago, Quatrefoil, but being new to the group I am catching up a bit.  There is no obligation but I like a challenge.  Unfortunately we don't have a vegetable garden that looks like this as my inspiration.
I went 1930s retro (and terrible mood lighting) for this doggy block.
I love a good block when I need a quick sewing pick me up.  They provide a lovely little opportunity to try out a new design or play with colours not normally chosen.  

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Check out my knickers! (Or - the Chance to Give Back)

I have some large ongoing quilts at the moment, hence the silence.  However, having recently joined the Perth Modern Quilt Guild and attended my first meeting and having joined an online quilting bee group, I can see a lot of blocks in my future.

I like the opportunity to work on individual blocks for swapping, giving to a charity quilt or just plain learning.  I tend to extend myself a bit more, trying out new techniques that I wouldn't be game to try on an entire quilt in case I didn't like the end result or stuffed things up. :)  Also, on an individual block I am more likely to make something that isn't what I would immediately consider my style.  I am not big on applique for example, or paper piecing...or more traditional piecing with perfect points.  However, it is nice to know that you can do these things or at least have given them a bit of a go.

Being a part of Giving Hands has ticked a lot of boxes for me - the opportunity to give to the community, to improve my skills in a non confrontational environment, to be able to work with and learn from some amazing women and of course to be able to create beautiful quilts as a group, where I end up using materials and designs I wouldn't normally have tried.  (The first green and blue quilt shown in the link is our group's by the way :)).

To my delight I have discovered not only more wonderful ladies, funky designs and ideas, fabric to covet and many cups of good coffee at the PMQG but also more opportunities to give.  On my first day with them I am presented with blocks of the month which can go into charity quilts and even better the Knickers project.

As the entry suggests, quilters are submitting knicker blocks.  These will go into a quilt to be given as the raffle prize to raise money for research into uterine cancer.  I pretty much did mine immediately!

I can't wait to see everyone else's knickers! (Even though I have only just met them all...)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My Workroom

"Workroom" is a bit of a grand name for where I do my quilting.  It is in fact the spare room/young man's change room/storage space/book room/access to the cat run.  It is the converted garage of our house and is rather tastefully decked out in a lot of pine so it has the nickname "sauna room".  For a couple of years though it has been my sewing room too and I have been fortunate enough to have the support of a loving husband who has helped me to equip it with my beloved Bernina and way too much Ikea furniture.  First came the bookcases which are hidden behind a white flannel covering to create my design wall, then the sewing table and lamp and now my storage system complete with patchwork boxes!
That gigantic storage system is now holding all of my fabric stash organised into colour families and themes, boxes of scraps (which still need proper sorting) and WIPs (of which I have more than I realised - still, you can never be without a half finished quilt can you?) 
There are still bags of baby clothes and other baby paraphernalia to go to loving homes or the shed but for now it is a huge improvement on what it was like before.  I should have taken a before picture to show how much better this is but that would have been embarrassing :). 
I can see much washing of fabric I had no room to store, reviving of semi completed projects and hours of playing with my stash...now that I have the breathing space in there.

Saturday, 13 April 2013


It has been quite some time since my last post as it has been a bit of a slow start to the year when it comes to finishing off projects.  I am guessing now the chill of Autumn is in the air that might change!  Currently I have a number of quilts in progress on the go at various stages of completion and of course hundreds of ideas floating in my head!  Not to mention the piles of fat quarters, scraps and yardage gathering in my workspace with ideas of their own....

However for now there is one more completed quilt, finished because of said chill in the air and also because it is a project close to my heart.  My little boy moved into his big boy bed and a while ago I promised a larger big boy bed topper to mark the occasion.  Also it will hopefully make a perfect snuggle quilt for the sofa when it gets really chilly while watching playschool. :)

There was a slight sense of urgency for me because I feel he is growing up just so quickly and I am not sure how long his interest in Spot the dog will last!  Fortunately he seems to like his new quilt so he is still my little boy and not outgrown it before it was even finished....

The centre is a panel, which I managed to pick up on sale, along with the Spot border material.  As they were end of line I didn't have quite as much of the border as I would have liked so had to, as Tim Gunn would say, "make it work".  Also while I do like using coordinates from the same range, you can have too much of a good thing, leading to a quilt design which is potentially a bit flat, so of course I had to have a rummage in my boxes.  I was particularly excited to excavate the red 1930's retro bone material!  It made the perfect foil to the green.  The corner blocks helped make the Spot border material make it around the quilt.

 Piecing this quilt was fairly straightforward - centre panel, two borders and corner blocks.  Quilting however left me a little unsure this time due to the large expanse of the centre piece so it sat for some time sandwiched, with the borders ditch stitched, in my workspace.  I didn't want to quilt over the images but also needed to ensure the quilting was dense enough for regular washing and toddler wear and tear.  I finally bit the bullet and tried my first free motion quilting...

I like the zen and regularity of straight line quilting and am really getting into trying different straight line techniques but free motion has always left me feeling a bit lost.  Stippling certainly makes me freeze up.  However, I wanted to experiment and try something new and as this was a project for my little boy I felt I could.  I chose to repeat the start motif and keep it fairly free in design, making the stars the size required to pretty much fill the negative space behind the pictures.  After a bit of warming up on some scraps and some more stalled attempts with just the darning foot I admitted I needed my flashy little stitch regulator that came with my Bernina.  I was a bit skeptical about how useful it would be but I ate my words.  Perfect stitch tension and length if not perfect star shapes!  I have included the close up here as they are fairly hard to see from a distance, which probably isn't a bad thing and certainly knowing this gave me the confidence to press on and not worry so much about perfection. :)  By the end I was enjoying myself enough to add a star to each corner block too!

The backing is a single piece of spotty quilting flannel, which is beautifully soft and has great flop.  The binding is a simple yellow and white spot. 

That was quite a post for such a simple, fun little quilt - I must be missing blogging!