Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Australasian Quilt Convention & Expo & and some lessons!

A brilliant time was had at the quilt show - my first as a quilter and quite an eye-opener.  The quilts of course were fabulous, and rather than being intimidating, I found them to be really inspiring.  I can now see further down the path I am travelling and seeing what is up ahead, makes me even more anxious to get along with the journey.

The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne - a beautiful venue for the quilt expo

I took a special interest in the quilting, getting up very close to see how the experts do it.  The full gamut of styles were represented, domestic machine, longarm, computer and hand quilting (superb), traditional, free-form, ditch, echo and more which I don't have names for.  By far the most popular (by my own personal viewings) was free-form. 

As for the designs, art quilts and pictorial quilts seemed to be really popular, but there were plenty of traditional quilts as well.  Lots of applique, embroidery and embellishments featured.  I spent quite a bit of time looking at the antique quilts on display and also at the displays featuring the work of Gloria Loughman and Kim McLean - all of them breathtaking!

I took a lot of photos, but out of respect for the quilt owners, I won't post them here as I don't have permission to do so.  Many of them can be seen on the website http://www.aqc.com.au/  The winner, I am proud to say is Tasmanian Marlene King.

My hunt for products was not altogether successful, but I still managed to do my share of shopping!  My most focused hunt was for stencils but these proved to be elusive.  I asked at several trader stalls and got the same answer from most of them - "we no longer stock these as most quilters prefer to do free-form quilting or have their quilts sent out for professional quilting".  A few still carried stencils but in a very limited range and didn't bring them along to the show.  I did finally track some down - Punch with Judy had a nice range of stencils and I purchased about a dozen different designs.  Funnily enough, I had to fight for these as the stencil range proved very popular and was crowded with shoppers.  Of those I bought, most are too advanced for me, but I grabbed them anyway to put away for further down the track.  I also picked up a stencil cutter and flexi-ruler, so I can make my own at some stage.

I also picked up some marking crayons which I've not tried before

Battings, pencils and threads at the show were pretty much the same as I can buy right here in Hobart.  Battings in particular were in very short supply with few to be found amongst the stalls.  I am guessing the reason for this is lack of space, as many traders said, they are quite limited in what they can bring simply due the small size of the stalls.

Fabric of course was everywhere, visitors to the show could pretty much buy any fabric, pattern, kit or panels they desired.  I indulged a little, picking up some hand-blocked Indian print cottons and some fat quarters in shades of grey and taupe, which for some reason are very hard to find here - I suppose grey is not a very pretty colour but I wanted some for blending. 

Hand printing cotton fabric

My only fabric indulgences at the Quilt Expo - ain't I restrained!

All is not lost though, in my search for products.  Sue Bennet, owner of  Miss Sampson's Drapery, and a good friend of Harriet's stocks many of the products recommended in the book.  I introduced myself to Sue at her stall and she is happy to mail order the things I want.  I did a little happy dance at this news.  Sue sponsored (is that the correct term?) Jinny Beyer's visit to the show and I was privileged  to attend both of Jinny's lectures - Magic with Border Prints and Colour Your World.  The lectures were both informative and entertaining and I'm excited about using her techniques when choosing colours for my quilts.

My hands-on quilting lessons with Stephanie Newman continued on Monday, and this time we worked on free motion (last week was grids and ditch-stitching).  The exercises were not dis-similar to the ones in Harriet's Heritage Machine Quilting book - practicing curves, geometric shapes and squiggles. 

The last exercise of the evening was free form quilting, where we make a pretty little pattern of flowers trailing over the fabric.  Stephanie explained that free form was easier than stitching to a drawn design, but I disagreed as I felt having lines to follow was easier.  Thinking it over later, I understand that it's not actually easier, but that I am more comfortable working to a set design than I am with free form.  In fact, free-form quilting terrifies me!

I don't pretend to be able to draw (hence my obsession with stencils), I have trouble with perspective in particular.  I am far more at ease when I have a set plan to quilt to, a set size and a set order in which to direct the fabric.  This is just the way my brain works - free form quilting confuses me no end!

With my sample sandwich under the needle I started off ok, but suddenly, for no particular reason I'd veer off into straight lines instead of curves, or would simply stop with no idea on what to do next.  It's a very odd sensation - my mind would be set on making loops and curvy lines, but my hands would push the fabric into straight lines.  It's really hard to explain, but I found the whole exercise very perplexing.

You can see the many places where I would just stop in confusion, also veering off into straight lines, random loops, backtracking and changing sizes.

A couple of times Stephanie had to remind me to breathe - apparently I was turning an alarming blue colour.  I still want to pursue this method, although my personal preference is for more formal designs (with lines!) I'd like to be able to free-form as well.  It's going to take patience and practice, which is the case with anything new, but I also want to understand and conquer whatever it is which makes this so difficult for me.

It's almost done - I have half the binding sewn down and should finish the rest tonight.  After getting home from the quilt show I was itching to sew!  After a token flinging of things into boxes (I'm supposed to be concentrating on packing for the move to a new house) I gave up and headed to the sewing room.  I finished quilting the borders, and I'm really pleased with them.  I like the design on this quilt and it's one I can easily manage to free motion.  The botched centre design really bothered me, and with a depth of persistence and patience I didn't know I had, managed to totally un-pick it.  The cold weather is starting to set in now, and I'm looking forward to snuggling up in this quilt with its lovely wool batting.

Unfinished and unwashed but almost ready to snuggle up in!


  1. Lesley, I've been reading your blog from the beginning during the weekend, and the blog counter just clicked 20,000! Guess it's time to let you know what an incredible inspiration your blog is. I am a new quilter and have all 3 of Harriet's QA books. #3 just arrived last week. However, I've not yet started on the projects. With this blog, your great pictures and commentary, I am excited to get started. - New Quilter in California

  2. Hello! So what's the holdup with getting started? A whole new world is about to open up, you need to get a move on! Kidding - I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have.