Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Project 8 - Asian Nights Quilting

Some more progress has been made, but not a lot so far.  Last week I had the top all marked out using stencils and pounce powder - nice and bright, quick and easy.  Remember what it looked like...........?

Marked out with ponce

So this week I went ahead with the ditch stitching and finished the grid.  Here is what it looks like after sewing ...........

Where are the markings?

A closer look - some very, very faint marks remain on the border - but too faint to follow

There is not a single marking left on the top!  Gone, disappeared, nothing!  This seems to be an ongoing problem for me.  Whether I use ponce, pencil, or chalk, the markings disappear after making the sandwich and ditch stitching.  Admittedly, the grid quilting required a lot of handling, and perhaps I should have done the FM first (although grid first is the order Harriet recommends), but I am really getting frustrated with this. 

The only marking tool which seems to stay on and stay bright are the blue washable pencils.  Having made a sample using the clover one which didn't wash out, and hearing lots of horror stories about the blue markings re-appearing after washing, I am reluctant to use them.

Having used stencils and not the lightbox to trace the designs, it wasn't difficult to re-mark the top.  The centre design caused me grief as I managed to confuse the lines and mess it up.  After unpicking I re-marked the design in different coloured chalks - orange chalk for the inner design and green chalk for the outer.  This worked a treat and I had no problems following the correct sewing order.

Sadly, I messed the sewing up completely - I suffered 2 bobbin tangles while doing the free motion, and my technique was pathetic, going off the lines, jerking and very un-even stitching.  I think this is what happens when I try to FM under stress.  The stitching was too small to unpick so I have to live with it.  No, I'm not even going to show a pic of the mess, as it's too embarrassing!

Finding that doing free motion quilting on top of a grid, particularly a grid which is rather puffy from the wool batting, rather than the flat cotton I'm used to, I decided not to sew the rest of the planned designs on the top and went straight to the borders.

I like this border design!
The pattern needs to be FM'ed four times, once for each line in the design, and as you can see from the picture, the markings had become quite faint by the time I'd finished.  I'm getting so much better at staying on the lines now, but need to work on my stitch length, which are still erratic and too small. 

I've had my first beginner quilting lesson with Stephanie, most of which was working on ditch stitching and gridwork.  The next lesson will concentrate on co-ordinating hands and speed in free-motion, which is exactly what I need!  I've also booked in for lessons on free-motion feathers and another set of lessons on trapunto, which I'm looking forward to.

I'm off to Melbourne for the quilt show and won't be back until next week, but I'm hoping I can finish off the Asian Nights first (unlikely).  There will be lots of traders and as well as sourcing stencils, battings and threads, I'm going to look at marking pencils.  Sounds like an excuse for a shopping trip rather than looking at quilts, but I'm sure I can manage to do both!

I'm moving house!  We bought a house on the weekend and have only a month to move.  That's not a lot of time to sort, pack and hold a garage sale, so sewing has to take a backseat for a bit.  Actually my sewing room was the first to be packed up.  My current sewing space is a disused shop attached to the house, and it's brilliant, with lots of space and even in-built shelving.  But the room is also used for storage and now is needed to store packed boxes and the bits and pieces for the garage sale.  I've left out the bare essentials for quilting, so can continue working on and off over the next month.  I think I'd go crazy if I couldn't sew for over a month!

My current sewing space is not pretty, but it's functional.  This is only one corner of it, there is an ironing station, sink and washing machine behind me (and more shelving used for storing other stuff).  No windows!

The new house does have a space for a sewing room (it was part of my house-hunting criteria) but it's a lot smaller and it's going to take quite a bit of creative organising to make it work.  The room has windows on 3 sides and double doors on the other, so there is very little wall space for shelving etc.  On the upside, it's very light and bright and has great views!

This is going to be my new sewing space!

Till next time.............

Monday, April 19, 2010

More Asian Nights and a Stolen Quilt

While I try to dedicate most of this blog to Harriet's QA book(s) - I want to deviate a little to appeal for help in locating a stolen quilt.

Cindy Watkins stolen quilt 'Dragonfly Maiden'

This quilt was stolen from a quilt exhibition in Tasmania, Australia on April 6th.  The devestated maker, Cindy Watkins, has put out an appeal for help in it's recovery and has given permission for the image to be used in email, blogs, newsletters etc. This quilt has been in exhibition all around Australia and New Zealand and is quite well known here, so it wouldn't be unrealistic to consider it may find it's way overseas.  If anyone spots this quilt please let me know at patchnblock@gmail.com and I'll pass on any information to Cindy.  Thank you.

My free motion class was cancelled!  Poor Stephanie has a virus so the class has been put off till next week (get well quickly Stephanie)!  Meanwhile I've continued to work on the Asian Nights quilt.

Using the instructions for Harriet's book 'From Fibre to Fabric'  I was able to splice the batting and make a large enough piece to fit the top.  Harriet has you layer the two ends by a few inches and 'serpentine cut' through them.

The cut ends butt together beautifully.

 The next instructions are to hand sew the battings together using a herringbone stitch.  Herringbone stitch?  I have no idea how to do that, but my sewing machine does!  Adjusting the stitch to 9mm, I tested it out using some scraps and it worked!  Sandwiching the machined scraps between thin muslin, I could neither see nor feel the join.  That was good enough for me and I machine herringbone stitched the battings together.


Having given some thought to the quilting design (yes I know I should do this before cutting the borders), I decided to keep the centre motif and the border design, then put 4 of the border design through the centre of the quilt and grid quilt the rest.

I snuck a little heart design in each corner, just for fun.

I haven't left myself any room for error with that border - there's barely enough room for the binding, let alone a tidy up trim once the quilting is done.  Eek!

Tomorrow, all going well, I'll do some stabilizing ditch stitching and start on the grid quilting.  The sooner the better, cause I'm looking forward to some free motion playtime!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Project 7 & 8 - Town Square / Asian Nights

I love this quilt!  It's kind of 2 projects in one as I made the Town Square pattern first, then when I decided I was happy with it (and cause I cut too much fabric) I extended it into the larger Asian Nights design.

I have been working, truly, but between groups, socialising, house-hunting, husbands locking themselves out of the house and trips interstate (another coming up soon) there's not been much progress in the sewing room. 

I started adding the borders to this top a few days ago - I decided to be unadventurous and follow Harriet's lead, doing the same borders as she did on her quilt.  What can I say - Harriet's quilt looks fabulous and I want to try my best to have a stunning looking quilt too. 

Harriet's stunning Asian Nights quilt

I added a narrow blue border and was set to add the dark brown one as well - but disaster!  I didn't have enough fabric.  I measured the borders, making them an inch and a bit smaller than I wanted, but wasn't able to eke enough from the leftovers to go all the way around.  Frustratingly, I was only about 3 inches short on the top and bottom borders.  Ho Hum. 

I finally made it into town this morning and was relieved to find they had some of the fabric left.  If they didn't it wouldn't have been a disaster - another colour/print would have done, but I did have my heart set on using the same fabric as I used in the top.  Anyhow, I got them sewed on and here's how it looks so far...........

Borders on finally!

I had intended to follow the quilting suggestion for this top from the book, but using the same cable design I've used previously for the border.  While buying the extra fabric, I found a small selection of stencils in the shop (why stencils are so difficult to find here is beyond me - they are around, but the choices are really limited).  I decided it would be a great border for this quilt and purchased it. 

Because I cut the borders narrower than I wanted, this design only just fits!

Then I started fiddling around and thought maybe I could use the stencil on the top itself as well, in a diagional direction.  I also chose one of the stencils Harriet sent, for the centre block.

Harriet's stencil is priced at $2.89 - the one I purchased here cost $12.95 ????? 

I've chosen a beautiful wool batting to use with this quilt.  Hobbs Tuscany Wool.  A local quilter/teacher had a very small supply of this batting and I bought 2 packs.  The packs are 'throw size' and too small for this top, but Harriet has instructions for splicing batting together, which I'm going to do for this.  Sadly, this is probably the last I'll see of this batting, as the seller is doubtful she can get anymore of it.  If I have any leftovers after splicing and making the sandwich, I'll make a couple of samples first.

Cotton is lovely, but winter is coming and I'd like a warm quilt to snuggle in - you can't beat wool for warmth and snuggling!

I'll ponder the quilting design a bit more before committing (your comments are always welcome).  Once decided I'll use pounce powder to mark it.  I'm not nervous about marking the design before sandwiching and basting (chalk pencils tend to rub off during this process) as I can always use the stencil and powder to re-mark, something I can't do if I use a light-box. 

Next week I'm off to the Australian Quilt Show in Melbourne, which I'm very excited about.  Sadly no classes for me, but I have booked for Jinny Beyer's lectures on Colour and another on Border prints.  While there I want to see which suppliers have what, particularly battings and I'll also keep a lookout for stencils.

Tomorrow night I have a class in free motion quilting with Stephanie Newman.  It's a 3 part class for beginners and I'm hoping to get some hands-on tips for this technique.  I really need help with stops/starts and also with hand/foot speed co-ordination.  Stephanie is very experienced and I've heard is also an excellent teacher.  She has a couple of quilts in the Melbourne show as well, so I'll be very interested in viewing those as well.  Stephanie's blog can be found here..... http://stephanienewman.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Project 6 - Country Lanes Table Runner - Finished

I've been off over to the mainland, spending some time with my family and away from my sewing room.  I headed straight back in the day after I got back, worried that I'm getting too far behind schedule.  So here is another one down and new lessons learned.

I consider this one to be a bit of a failure.  To jog your memories, here is the finished top.......

I was unhappy with the fabric combinations.  I spent a lot of time doing mock ups etc and the fabrics should have worked together, but in the end it just looked ..... umm .... hotch potch and messy.

This top is supposed to have 6 mitered borders and I did try, really.  Having spent the best part of an afternoon trying to get the first one to work, I had to admit defeat and ripped off the pointy bits at the end.  I quickly sewed on some butted borders and gave some thought to the quilting.

I used the large floral print for the backing, which gave me the idea to try something I'd read about - quilting from the back.  After ditch stitching, I would quilt around all the flowers on the backing using invisible thread.

The quilt back

It's really hard to see, but here's a close up look at the quilting.

On the plus side it was really quick and easy to do - but quick and easy don't usually bring the best results.  Have a look at the front.........

It looks like a lot of very bad meandering and not much at all like flowers - what a mess!

I finished the runner with black binding which I'm in the process of sewing on.  I did learn quite a bit from making this top -:
  1. I need 'hands-on' lessons on mitered borders
  2. Quick and Easy doesn't give the best results
  3. Mock-ups don't always give a true peek at the finished look
So here is the (almost) finished table-runner - and onto the next project!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Project 4 Triple Rail Fence - Borders

I really like quilting borders.  The length gives me a chance to get into a nice flowing rhythm, unlike the simple blocks I've been doing which are stop/start, stop/start.  Then again, the part of quiltmaking I dislike is border marking.  Trying to manage a quilt across a small lightbox is tricky and the results (for me at least) are never straight.

Freezer paper is only available from quilting stores here - supermarkets don't stock it.  So I ordered some online and added a roll of Golden Threads Quilting Paper.  I thought it may be just the thing for marking borders.

The blurb on the quilting paper says you simply trace your design onto the paper, pin it to the quilt top, then when finished just tear it away.  Sounds good to me.  You can also needlepunch your design on - up to 15 layers at a time - just sew through the design with a large unthreaded needle.  If you want you can pounce through the needleholes directly onto the fabric.

So I thought I'd give it a shot.  Being a beginner, I decided to trace the 4 corners and borders individually, instead of risking 4 wobbly needlepunched stencils. 

The quilting paper comes on a 20 yard roll

I traced the corners separately
Pinned to the top and ready to go!

After the 1st border, I was ready to chuck it.  Really, it moved and crunched up and the noise!  Crackle, crunch, crackle.  Despite being able to see the lines really clearly, I managed to mess up and sewed the wrong lines - this was because I had to pin the corners to a short piece then to a long piece and it all shifted.

By the time I got to the last border I had it sorted and it quilted up quickly and easily.  On the plus side, the lines are easy to see, but on the minus side, it just seemed weird.  Oh and my needle unthreaded umpteen times, which drove me crazy.  I think an experienced quilter may like this, but for me, I don't think I'm ready for it.

Borders quilted through paper - weird!

Then it was time to take the paper off.  The blurb on the roll states "tears away cleanly and easily" "to remove paper from quilting, gently tug fabric on the bias and the paper will break away from the stitches, making it easy to tear away".  This well may be true if you are quilting straight lines an inch or two apart.  Have a look at those tiny squares in the picture - the paper did not pop off these from a gentle tug!

It took longer to get the paper off than it would have taken to hand mark the borders

I was reluctant to tug on the bias, due to the fact that my borders were already wavy.  I did give it a go though, and the paper on the outside came away from the stitching easily.  Getting it off the inside lines and out of those little squares was another matter.  I had to scrape it off with a fingernail.  Admittedly, it did come away from the stitching cleanly, but a gentle tug was not going to do it.  I think it would have been quicker just to trace the border over the lightbox, than to mess around for ages getting the paper off!

Here it is, nearly all done - I've discovered binding clips - love 'em!
From the back

A close up of the quilting from the back

There you go - a jerky heart from where the quilt got hung up - I knew I wouldn't get away with not showing a dodgy one!

Now this quilt has wavy borders, sad mitered corners, jerky quilting and tiny bits of paper stuck in the stitching but you know, I like it.  I seem to have grown more attached to it, the more it caused me stress.  I'm going to claim this one for myself :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Project 4 Triple Rail Fence - Quilting

After ditch-stitching around all the blocks, I've had lots of fun quilting little hearts and diamonds onto each block in the triple rail fence quilt.  There are 99 blocks in all, and by the time I finished, I was getting the hang of it.  Actually I was sorry once they were done, as I was enjoying the process, getting relaxed and into the 'zone'. 

My biggest problem is no longer seeing and staying on the lines (thanks to my small FM foot) but getting the quilt hung up all over the place.  It gets stuck under the table, on a corner, at the edges.  It complains if it doesn't have enough room in the harp and refuses to budge, determinedly sewing in one place until I fiddle with the packaging.  The worst though, is when the quilt (or a pin) gets stuck on the pressure foot take up lever.  On my model Pfaff (Quilt Expression 2048) the take up lever sits to the side, sticking out to the right.  This is nice and easy to reach when sewing, but doesn't quite work when quilting FM.  When the quilt gets caught in the lever, it either comes to a sudden and very unexpected stop, and/or the pressure foot drops down, and the quilt stops moving (but my hands and feet keep going).  Anyway, enough excuses - here is what it looks like........

The back is quite wrinked, while the front is smooth and flat.  Is this the result of pre-washing or of not stretching the backing tight enough?

Is it cheating if I don't post pics of the jerky ones?

This time, I have a solid backing, but that's not how I planned it.  I tried my hand at dying, and as a first timer, I expected a patchy/mottled result - which is what I wanted.  Of course the calico dyed up beautifully, with not a mottle in sight - so now I have a backing which shows the quilting, wobbles and all.  I'm interested to see how this will wash up.  The quilt top fabric is not pre-washed, but the backing is.  I've used a cotton batting, so I'll be curious as to how it all shrinks up.

It's hard to see the quilting on the front because of the busy prints, but here it is - marked up and quilted....

Next are the borders.  I am trying a new marking technique with this, using paper pinned to the top.  I'm hoping it's simple and effective, but I have a feeling it's going to be more complicated than it looks. 

But not till tomorrow as I just cracked a gorgeous dark chocolate hazelnut easter egg which needs immediate attention!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Project 5 - Log Cabin Completed

After the disappointment of the mitered borders on the triple rail fence, I moved straight onto the next project - Carrie's Patriotic Log Cabin.  Following the suggestion in the book, this quilt top didn't have borders added, so I went straight onto the quilting.

Using a couple of the stencils Harriet sent, I tried a variety of marking techniques - air dry purple pen, blue water soluable pen and pounce powder.  The ponce and stencil combination is really quick and effective too, and it washed out nicely.  I'll definitely use it again.  It's hard to see in the pic, but there are 5 of the large design in each of the 4 light areas and one in the centre, then there are 8 smaller designs around the edges.

I ditch stitched and did a diagonal cross across each block before doing the free motion.  Matilda's Own cotton batting, grey Signature thread in the bobbin (which hides nicely, if not completely on the dark blue tie dye backing) and Sew Art nylon in the needle.  I love the Sew Art!  It's very soft, not brittle at all and doesn't shine.  I can't buy it here yet, but am trying to find a supplier.  Thank you Harriet for this thread - but now I've been spoiled, nothing else will do.

Quilting from the back

The quilting only took an afternoon, and I had it bound and washed by last night.  It's wrinkled up nicely, the way I like it. 

Another one done!

Next is the quilting for the triple rail fence.  I have it sandwiched and ready to go for ditch quilting.  I've chosen a small design to go in each block, so it's going to take quite a while to complete.