Sunday, August 31, 2014

Heard of Cows?

It's been a busy old time in the All the Good One's household.  Last weekend we helped family and friends celebrate my husband's Uncle Simon's 80th Birthday.  Staying on the Marae was a great experience for Dylan, who doesn't remember staying on his family Marae before.  The communal style of living is not conducive to a full nights sleep - so it took me most of the week just to recover!  Something to do with getting old :o)

As the days disappear until Dylan's big school trip to the snow, the fundraising effort seems to just keep continuing.  Wednesday was a big cross country event held at school - so another opportunity to impress with my vast baking skills.  Well actually, I just try for something edible...

My go-to recipe is a basic chocolate cookie... this time I went to town with the decorations (thanks for the inspiration from the latest cake decorating weekly magazine that is being promoted in NZ at present).

Heard of cows???
 Now, before I had children I had a naive image of what parenthood would be like - me doing crafts with my children... spending time decorating biscuits and cakes... little did I know that I had zero tolerance and even less patience.  I soon discovered that cake decorating was not my forte (around about the time of Dylan's first birthday, although I did try again somewhere around Nadia's first birthday), and after tears and swearing - decided that a basic iced cake was the most the kids could ever expect, and I've been training them ever since to have low "cake expectations".

Every now and then - I think, hmm, maybe I could manage that?  Now these cows aren't rocket science in the decorating world - chocolate buttercream icing, jellybeans, chocolate melts, marshmallows and chocolate drops.  I figured I could do these... and they turned out not too bad.


In my spare moments I've been reading - recently downloading the first book in David Edding's series The Belgariad.  I purchased these books for my brother as they were published back in the 1980's???, probably reading them several times in my teenage years; and haven't read them since.  The first few pages were like curling up with an old friend... comfortable like a pair of old slippers.  I'm really enjoying the repeat performance.

Sorry no sewing this time... maybe next week?

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Great Around The World Bloghop


Hi There, today is Monday and my turn to participate in the Around the World bloghop, to share my take on The Creative Process.  Many thanks to Raewyn who blogs at Love to Stitch for inviting me to share in this interesting topic.

One of Raewyn's latest Mystery quilt adventures - in miniature this time! 

I often feel disappointed that fellow bloggers don't share anything about their craft, other than The Eye Candy: what the latest project is and what the latest fabric purchases are.  Not that there is anything wrong with that now and then (sometimes that's about it in my world too) - we all love new projects and certainly love new fabric - but there is a whole other side to this quilting thing, that I feel, is often neglected - How did this wonderful project come about?  Why did you choose that background, or feature fabric?  Why did you choose this technique over that one?  The design process, the quilting decisions... the list goes on... I want to know it all!

So this is a bit about me, how and why I create the things I do.

 The formal bloghop questions are:
1. What am I working on? 
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
3. Why do I write/create what I do? 
4. How does my writing/creating process work?

I'm not sure if I can formulate my thoughts into answers to these exact questions... but we'll see how it goes.
 
The first one is easy... what am I working on?  Everything!  I have many projects in different stages of construction and turn to different projects depending on my mental and emotional state, what the weather's been like, and the ups and downs of parenthood.  I enjoy the monotony of chainpiecing, and when the world all becomes a bit much - I love to pull out an old, or start a new, pieced quilt.


Amsterdam Star blocks from Judy Hopkins 101 Rotary Cut Quilts, with minor adjustments
Other times I feel a strong pull towards the creativity of applique, and have far more applique quilts started than I can probably ever finish. 

One of the My Tweets BOM blocks
 My projects are somewhat similar in that they tend to use a wide variety of fabrics.  I love these soft greyed fabrics, and duckegg blue is among my favourite colours - but I also enjoy contemporary and modern prints, as well as bright and fun designs - so I try not to be limited by a particular genre.  I tend to buy small quantities of fabrics - often fat quarter or fat eighth size, and have collected an impressive collection, which I am always on the look out to add to.  When there is a designer range of fabrics that I just have to acquire, I'll often purchase a charm pack - this satisfies my need for all those different fabrics... but also gives the credit card time to cool down.

This quilt designed by Denyse Schmidt features an upsized block that was the perfect solution for a layer cake of Sweetwater's Hometown range that I adored, and just had to have

I make big quilts.  I don't know exactly why this is... but even my little quilts are bigger than the average bear.  The challenge of making small amounts of fabric add up to a large quilt top is part of the magic of what makes my quilts uniquely mine.  My quilts have been described as scrappy, and yes, they do have a lot of different fabrics - but there has also been an enormous amount of care, attention and time that has gone into curating the final palette.  Because I am limited by the quantity of individual fabrics on hand, I need to be creative in choosing quilt designs that embrace variety... as well as lots of small bits.  I love the challenge of finding a quilt pattern that highlights the fabric in the best way possible - and, like many others, I rarely make the same design twice.

Sometimes it is traditional...

 
This is basically a two colour quilt - but includes purple through to navy and black in the dark zones, turquoise, green and everything in between in the light.  I collected these batik fabrics over a three year period with no idea what I was going to do with them.


 Sometimes it is modern...

My Tokyo Subway quilt is a modern scrap quilt
And sometimes it is somewhere inbetween...
And the leftover Tokyo Subway squares will one day form a stunning and completely different Supernova quilt
I think for me, in the great chicken/egg debate, the fabric comes first, and the quilt design comes second.  I start with a beautiful stack of fabric...


... that will grow and evolve, and take on a new character...


...and I start looking for a quilt design that will enhance the fabrics that I have chosen.


When I find the right one... I just know that it will all work out.  I have confidence in the Quilting Gods :o)


Sometimes I find a pattern that is just perfect as it is...
Playground Quilt by Camille Roskelley, featuring Reunion by Sweetwater.  This one was so perfect that I used the pattern as well as the same fabric line!
 
OK I did make minor modifications to the star block, but barely noticeable to the original pattern
...other times I need to tweak it a bit - which usually means making it bigger...

The centre section was the end of the pattern, the outer triangle corners are all my own invention

Other times I create something from scratch (pencil, graph paper, EQ7 and making it up as I go along)...

The Bulls-eye Quilt made from one charm pack, plus a small amount of yardage
... and I'm completely happy to embrace all quilt creation methods.

I think that's enough about me... please leave a comment if you have a burning question!

Now to pass you on to the lucky bloggers continuing the bloghop, continuing with the International theme are two other Northland quilters who have moved to NZ from other countries.

First up, Monika who blogs at Himmelgarten Quilts here.  Monika has been my friend for over 10 years, over which time we both succumbed to the quilting bug.  She enjoys both pieced and artistic quilts, and has a real talent for FMQing...

Mathea is a newer friend, who although she creates using a variety of patchwork techniques - her focus is often a small, amazingly creative art piece - you'll find her blog here.

Both ladies will be posting on the 1st September - so check out their posts on how they create their own masterpieces.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A bit of old and a bit of new, a little bit orange, and a little bit blue

The last week has been spent basting, basting, basting.  One of the drawbacks of making bigger quilts.  My delightful children have not been acting overly delightful lately, so I they have had to endure supervision during the afternoons, when I would normally leave them to run wild, and disappear to sew by myself.  This has put a bit of a damper on life in general - and definitely the enjoyment in the sewing department.

My enormous pile of basting pins didn't quite meet the task, so I spent a bit of time re-spacing the ones I had, as well as nicking them off other projects.  Finally I was done.  Time for the fun stuff.


This quilt is built up of various sized applique rectangles, rows of little squares (some with a circle applique every now and then), and a couple of other small applique blocks.  To reinforce the soft aged sort of feel of the fabrics, I chose not to FMQ a heavy design in the backgrounds (even though I was sorely tempted to unleash some McJobbiting [that's my version of McTavishing]) and stuck with a small but loose stipple, some orange peel in the squares and some (slightly crooked) crosses through the circles.  I like the simplicity.  Two blocks down... a whole heap more to go.

Also on the radar is a request for a little girl baby quilt.  I'm thinking about these fabrics... bright and fun... not too pink, but undoubtedly girlish!  I think I need a few more fun oranges and surprisingly there weren't any turquoise prints in my stash.  OK, and I need a few different pinks!  I'm tossing up a medallion style quilt with an applique centre, or a largish pieced star block with a border.  We'll have to see which design wins.


Talking about designs, Raewyn from Love to Stitch asked me if I'd like to participate in the Around the World Bloghop.  The topic of "Creative Process" really interests me, so I was quite happy to say YES and join in the fun.  Raewyn's insight into her own creative process is posted here and if you follow the links backwards and forwards to the various participants, there is a wealth of knowledge, ideas and styles - illustrating how everyone approaches the creative process in so many different ways.  My own post will be on Monday 25th August... so my mind is busy trying to think up new and intelligent ways to say "I just put together what I like and hope for the best".

So far two of my very creative friends Monika and Mathea have both agreed to be the next links in the bloghop (they'll post on the 1/9/14) - but I'm looking for a third.  If you would be keen to share your creative process, or would like some more details, please let me know before Monday so I can include your details.  The more the merrier and I'd love you to join in the party!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

The week gone

A small amount of regular sewing time during the week has produced a finished quilt top!  Woohoo!!

There's a square in there, finished size 75" x 75"



Unfortunately this will now be added to the "ready to quilt at a later date" pile, but, I am really happy to have spent the time getting this one done - sometimes you just need some mindless sewing, and I was super happy with the way this pattern enhanced the Eiko fabric bundle.

Saturday was my August stitching with the girls day... other committments meant it was just me and Charlotte this time, but we always have heaps to catch up on :o).  Luckily our combined kids are close enough in age that they play together *mostly* wonderfully, as long as there are ample baking supplies!


I decided to knuckle down and get something achieved on the Tillies Lane BOM.  My stack of hourglass type blocks has grown slowly and erratically, and I knew that I just had to move onto another stage, if the project was ever going to achieve any momentum.  So Block One of the central panel was created.  This is my latest scrap project, so everything except for the background cream on creams, is leftovers from other projects.





My next focus project is getting the Bluebirds and Berries quilt quilted.  First things first, deciding on the backing and getting it basted.  I knew I had extra backing fabric set aside for my huge applique quilt (all ready for the day it is finally finished), so to work out what the excess was (and whether there was enough for the B&B quilt) - I had to lay it all out.  It's been a while since this one has been out of the bag... enjoy the eye candy!

Approx 93" x 93" of pieced and appliqued loveliness

A closeup of the border fabric - this guided the choice of all the other fabrics in the quilt

A section of the applique with hand blanket stitch
 I started this quilt over 5yrs ago when we were in the initial stages of buying our house.  It was so stressful, and my husband suggested going to Paihia to "destress" at my then LQS (which has since unfortunately closed down) while he took the kids for very big ice-creams.  I took along the magazine that had the pattern for this quilt, and bought all the bits and pieces I needed.  After completing the construction of the quilt per the pattern, I worked out it was a touch small to fit on the bed comfortably, so designed and added the corner sections, to make the whole thing bigger.  Both the decision to make it bigger, as well as deciding to hand blanket stitch around the applique, turned this project into a mammoth task.  I still have quite a bit of the blanket stitch to do, and one day I will get serious again, and get this finished.

So that's me all caught up for the week, what have you been up to?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A bit of randomness

It's been a funny kind of week.  I celebrated a birthday... got my eyes checked... had a little girl home from school with sick bugs... and was the host to a (random) couple in the middle of a domestic dispute who turned up on our doorstep (which we contacted the police about).  Whew!

Thankfully I also got some sewing done!

First up, the beginning of a new month means a new quilt on the bed.  This was last months quilt, Buggy Barn Cats.


And just out of interest, this was the photo with the curtains pulled, and the flash on.  Look how yellow it is!

This was with no flash, and the curtains pulled back.  A bit washed out.


And the first photo had the curtains pulled, but the sunshade roller blind down... and the colours are almost perfect.

OK, the new quilt on the bed.  Bullseye II, made with a Comma charm pack.  While the cats are nice and cosy... I love how this quilt is modern and colourful... and the white squares just pop.



And if you've ever wondered what happens to quilts in between showings?  They get biffed to the top of the pile on my freestanding wardrobe.


I finished off the Reunion Playground quilt - deciding to machine stitch down the binding, even though this isn't my preferred method.  Normally I would do like many others do when applying binding by machine; I'd sew the binding onto the back first, then turn the binding to the front to run the final line of stitching.  But, as I hadn't decided to finish this by machine until I'd already attached the first stage of the binding - I had to modify the technique.  I thought I'd try glue basting down the binding instead of using pins - and it worked out not too bad.  It's not a quilt I'd ever put in a show... or look at under a microscope... but it's now finished, and finished is good, and I love it!


Unfortunately our weather is not conducive to outdoor shots... so an indoor draped over the sofa and beanbag shot...

Right, what else have I been up to?  The last few There's a Square in There blocks disappeared under the needle, and I'm now contemplating block placement.





Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A bit about stack and slash

Buggy Barn quilts are well known for their use of the stack and slash technique.  Their designs are wonderful, often complex, need careful fabric planning and layout management, but are on the whole easy to piece and well worth the effort.  Their cat quilt is a great example.

This fabric had pineapples on it... but don't they look like ticks?
 These designs come with a paper cutting layout which you trace onto freezer paper.  Your fat quarter sized fabrics are stacked, faceup, in the order you want, with the freezer paper template ironed to the top fabric.  Then it's a matter of following the numbers, slicing through the layers of fabric to create smaller and smaller shapes (very similar effect to paper pieced blocks).  The next trick is to restack the piles so that the different design elements appear... in this case, the cat appeared - complete with stripes, nose, cat body/head and background.  In this example, each block uses four different fabrics.  The initial stack layers determines which fabrics appear in each block - and it's important to layer your fabrics so that you get good contrast between the elements.  Make sense?

Now onto the There's a Square in There Pattern.  This uses much the same technique only much much simpler.  There is no intense layering and no paper template.  Instead, there are four different diagrams for the irregular log cabin blocks, each of which require four fabrics - two pattern and two plain.  The squares of fabrics are layered in order, face up, alternating plain and patterned fabrics.  The diagram describes the order of the cuts in black, with the size of the cut in blue.

In case you're wondering, I don't think this was the diagram I was following for the block cutting illustrated... and I may or may not have made a mistake with the cutting... however, the instructions also say that it is quite OK to make your own decisions about cutting... there is no right or wrong.

Here's my pile after the first round of cuts (the first cut is shown along the bottom).


Then I made the second round of cuts and reshuffled the second round, moving the top fabric to the bottom of the pile to reveal the orange logs. 


Then the last round of cuts... the third round stays plain, but if I left the pile without shuffling it, then when I got to the patterned fabrics, I would end up with two rounds matching, so I shifted two layers of fabric to the bottom of the pile, and a reshuffle for the centre rectangle, bringing the bottom fabric up to the top.

It helps to keep it laid out in order.  No wind, kids, cats or husbands tidying please.

Now we're ready to start piecing.  It's a matter of attaching the rounds in the opposite order to how they were cut.

The first piece matches perfectly...

But when you go to attach this unit to the next log, there is a bit of a size difference - the seam allowances.  This is how the technique works... you will need to trim.

 I sew the logs on first,

See the overhang on the left?

 then trim the overhang off later.


And once that log has been opened out, we can see that the mismatch continues, the next log will be too long... and in fact, every piece will need to be trimmed down.  Once you get your head around that, it is smooth sailing.


Because I decided to add in an alternate fabric every now and then, I swapped the plain piece I had already cut, and added the text instead.


And my four blocks from this pile, all with their first rounds added.


Round two will continue tomorrow.

So, have you ever made a stack and slash quilt?  Did you enjoy it?