Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Award!

Yesterday at Island Quilts, the Tasmanian Quilt Exhibition,  Pauline and I were thrilled to receive an award for our crazy patch quilt - Crazy Ladies of Franklin Court.

The award we received was Best Use of Mixed Media.  All credit for this win goes to Pauline's extraordinary embroidery.

As much as I love working through Harriet and Carrie's QA projects, I sometimes get the urge to be individually creative.  Imitating someone else's designs is absolutely necessary when learning, but after doing this for a year or so, I needed something else.

After moving house 10 months ago, I was delighted to discover my new neighbour was not only a lovely lady, but talented both as a sew-ist and artist.  Pauline had never made a quilt before but was happy to embroider the crazy patches as I produced them.  I took a lot of time and trouble choosing fabrics, pictures, laces etc. to put the patches together, but honestly, I needn't have bothered.  Handing over the first patch, I expected to have some nicely worked hand embroidery across the seams, but Pauline had other ideas.  She put close to 500 hours of hand-work into this quilt and the completed patches I received back were nothing short of astonishing. 
To understand what I'm talking about, please take around 3 minutes for a close look at the quilt in the slide-show below..............

Pauline, who is quickly approaching 75 (she doesn't mind me saying that, I did ask!) has been sewing and embroidering for as long as she can remember and is currently teaching some of the young neighbourhood girls the craft (for no fee) which is a brilliant opportunity for them.  She learnt to sew from her mother and grandmother as a young child and can still remember embroidering a duck at age 7.  She tried to teach me, but alas I just don't have the patience - I'm busy enough learning machine quilting. 

It seems I've started something - Pauline started making crazy patches of her own and has already made some gorgeous bags from them.  Now, after viewing the beautiful quilts on display at the exhibition, she has shown a lot of interest in learning free-motion quilting.  I think ladies, we have a new quilter about to emerge!  I will of course point her in the direction of the free motion quilting bible - Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Machine Quilting!

As for my own contribution, after the crazy patch embellishments were completed, I set about turning them into a quilt.  It was no easy task adding the sashing - have you ever tried to rotary cut sashing while your ruler is sew-sawing on top of buttons, beads and balls?   I did the best I could to get it all assembled, using the window-pane technique I'd just learned from making Harriet's Card Trick quilt and adding a jewel pieced border (which I wish I'd made larger),   The quilting is simple stitch-in-the-ditch, it being rather pointless to try to quilt it any other way. 

The inner seams of the patches have been hand-quilted to help carry the weight and prevent sagging of the heavy blocks.  This was done by Pauline, who armed with a batting sample for practice and a how-to-hand-quilt book, learned the technique overnight and finished the quilting the following day.

A big thank you to Horn Australia who sponsored this award.  The prize is very much appreciated!

The Island Quilts Best in Show 2011 - a very well deserved win for Rose Lewis - can be seen on the Tasmanian Quilting Guild website here .  The show finishes Sunday May 1st, so if you're in Tassie and haven't yet been, the details can all be found on the quilt website.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Vol 2 - Project 8 - Five Patch Chain - Making

The bulk of the piecing is done - I'm not quite sure why this design was included as there are no new techniques to learn in putting it together.  Still, it's a nice design and my red and white colour choice looks rather different to the example in the QA book.

Here it is up on the design wall waiting to be sewn together and side triangles added

Many people don't like to use white in their quilts, they prefer cream as white can be a bit stark.  I like cream too, it tends to muddy up the surrounding colours a little and tone it all down, perfect if that's the effect you're after.  I like to use white as I find it gives a freshness and brings out the surrounding colours with a bright and crisp look.

Having said that, this top is nice, but a little, well - boring.  When l first looked at the design I wanted to add something to it, a bit more interest - important as I've chosen rather uninteresting fabrics!  Traditionally, those blank white spaces are perfect for showing off beautiful quilting.  Hmmm - maybe one day, but not this day.

Instead I opted for applique - selecting a simple bird, designed by Michele Hill (which I took from a magazine - hope that's ok copyright police?)  

Two birds are better than one!

Even though this top has no new techniques to learn, I still managed to make a technical failure.  The white fabric I had so much trouble with, continued to cause problems.  It frayed terribly, it wouldn't press properly and it was tricky to cut and handle under the needle as it was so slippery.

I got suspicious and did a burn test on it and yes - it contains polyester!  The red damask was clearly labelled on the bolt as 100% cotton. It sewed and pressed beautifully.  The white damask was displayed next to it and I assumed it too, was 100% cotton.  I don't remember if I read the bolt label on the white or not, but it should not have been selling amongst the quilters cottons.  Naughty Spotlight.

Anyway, I found out why quilters use cotton and not polyester or polyester blends for quiltmaking!  The main issue for me was the pressing.  The stuff would ripple, bend and stretch.  I ended up with curved strips and wavy seamlines. Having struggled through making the blocks, I decided to live with it, so this quilt is not going to be winning any awards for precision!

Harriet Hargrave has written a brilliant book about the fabrics we use for making quilts called "From Fibre to Fabric".  This book tells us everything we need to know about working with cotton and every serious quilter should read it!  Here's what Harriet has to say about polyester blends (abridged) ..

'Polyester will not press flat because of the permanent press finish - it has a tendency to lift.  Polyester is more transparent than cotton causing seam allowances to shadow through.  Piling is a problem after quilts have been washed a few times and bearding can be a problem when polyester batting and fabrics are sandwiched together.'

As this quilt has lots of white, it's going to require lots of washing and piling is not a good look!  Oh dear.  I think perhaps this one will be put away, or just displayed and not used.  A shame to put so much work into a quilt which in the end won't get used.  It will make good quilting practice though!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Vol 2 - Project 8 - Five Patch Chain

I finally started on this project, the Five Patch Chain.  I had my fabrics selected some time ago and decided to do something a little different with this one.

A red and white.  The plain red & white fabrics are actually cotton damask, which have a nice sheen and a tiny bit of texture.  Why damask?  Because I had rather a lot of it!  The printed fabrics are all simple cottons and yes, I seem to have too many.  A bit of a surprise for later.

The red damask behaved beautifully but the white is naughty!  It frays and stretches and refuses to do as its told.  I think I have it tamed though as I learned to work a little differently with it.

I really haven't got very far - just the cutting and strip sewing.  I did do a single block to check the size after struggling with the white damask, and with a bit of trimming, it should work out fine.

Ready for chain stitching..........
The sample block

It doesn't look much yet, but sometimes simple is exactly right. 

I've been a bit lazy and taken a few days off here and there.  Sometimes we all just need a break. 

The show quilt needed some tweaking, a hanging sleeve and a label and is finally ready for delivery, and I can't wait to show it off - not long now.  The Tasmanian Quilt Show happens at the end of April - be ready for pics then!

Krakatoa, the bright yellow/orange french braid quilt continues to hassle me.  I started quilting it with a twin needle but it snapped and I didn't have another, so had to go to plan B.  I ended up with straight stitching in the braids, FM squares in the centres and a cable on the borders.  I'm now in the long process of unpicking the border quilting as it looked just awful, and some of the worst free motion I've done in a long time.  I'm sure this quilt is cursed, but I can't let it go and move on - I'm now challenged to finish it!  I didn't bother to take any photos of the process - just wasn't inspired to, besides it's not a QA project.

The other thing I've been working on is the Michelle Hill Bird wall hanging.  This one is coming along nicely.

Pre-quilting, but the borders look nice!

I've ditch stitched around all the applique, a job which had to be done s-l-o-w-l-y.  It took quite a while to do, but I'm happy with the result.  I must admit though, it was a relief when the last leaf was done!  At the moment I'm part-way through echo quilting it.  The echo is 1/4 inch from the applique and I plan to go around each piece twice then decide where to go next.  I may continue echo quilting or I may be brave and do a filler pattern.

Finally, I took another workshop at the Patchwork Cafe, this one for a foundation pieced Mariner's Compass table runner.  No pics of this one either.  I've only finished half of one star so far (there are 3 in total), but it was taking a while and I wanted to get back to work on the QA projects.  I'll return to this one a bit later.

Off to Melbourne this weekend for a look at the Tukenkarmen Exhibition and the Australian Quilt Show, so again a delay in progress.  Never mind, I'm enjoying having a bit of a rest!