Tuesday, December 25, 2012


So it turns out I haven't posted since the 3rd of December. I could ask where the time has gone but I know it has been gobbled up in end of year work tasks, Christmas sewing and planning for our annual trip east west (I never claimed to have a good grasp of geography!).

Plans are afoot for some beachside patchwork by hand while watching some new surfing attempts, much eating, some drinking and merriment.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday time with much relaxation or other enjoyment. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

...calendars - the Advent kind

For the past 6 or 7 years (with the exception of one) I haven't decorated for Christmas. It seems such a pointless exercise when we usually leave for our annual cross country trek to visit families and at least a week before Christmas and arrive home again long after the festivities have passed. Walking into a decorated house a week into January is like turning up in fancy dress at a party where they canned that idea.

And my lack of decorations makes me a bit sad. The one year I did decorate I made bunting, we bought a tree and I have mug rugs and placemats. They are all store carefully in the cupboard. There is a Christmas quilt for the spare bed (ours is still under construction!) and there are all sorts of others bits and pieces to be scattered around. I miss them when I don't put them up.

 So this year I decided on a happy medium of an advent calendar. Happily earlier this year Rachel and I agreed to fill each others Advent calendars. I committed to make mine, she already had one made a few years ago but it had only recently resurfaced, you can read the tale here.

I made it of my own design - the pockets are envelopes lined with 25 different Christmas fabrics. They took awhile but I think are worth the effort. I finished the calendar Saturday night - not quite in time for our filler swap. It made finishing the binding a little more tricky!. I am happy though that I had it hanging by Saturday night. Since them I have been waiting to have time and light at the same time for some good photos and tonight I get sick of waiting!

We decided to fill the weekend days with some sewing and crafting goodies and the weekdays with a chocolate treat. Everyday has a challenge - either a task or a photo theme. I'm posting my photos to Instagram here. (if anyone can tell me how I can show Instragram pics in this post I'd be most appreciative)

Three days in and I am having lots of fun - the challenges Rachel has set for me a open to many different interpretations and you can't complain about a daily treat!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

...having a go at hand piecing

On the last school holidays (or is could have been the ones before - these things tend to get away from me) a  took a few days of work and worked my way through a reasonable jam packed 'Crafty things I would like to do/try that I never have time for'. It was the best holiday I have had for a long time - at home, with purpose.

One of the things I did was attend a class on hand piecing at Amitie with Jenny. I have been interested in hand piecing for a little while but apart from the EPP projects I hadn't sewn anything together with just needle and thread (ie sans machine).

Frankly, I didn't trust my stitches to hold up over time - even just the time to get the top together, let alone quilting and years of use. And I couldn't bear to think of it falling apart as I was sewing or soon after and have all the hours of stitching wasted.

The class lasted the morning and I took along a small bundle of fabric and a new acquired pattern (Galaxy by Trish Harper) that specifically recommended hand piecing and the normal odds and sods of sewing. To that bundle I added a new 1/4 wheel, a sandpaper board and and needles recommended for hand piecing.

And the process was much as I had imagined but a little demonstration and encouragement can go a long way when you are learning something new. I pieced the center section of one star that day and have just now started working on it again. It think this block will became a cushion cover as I am not quite convinced with the fabric choices I have made for this one.

But in the meantime of course I bought the Green Tea and Sweet Bean pattern booklet and starter pack and I have started it!

I've drawn around the templates and then added the seam allowance as directed and stitched and stitched and now I have the first block for this quilt.

My two biggest decisions with this new technique developing now are
1. What project to take with me to Perth over the Christmas break, Green Tea and Sweet Beans or the unfinished Circle Game?
2. How I am possibly going to find time to start, let alone finish even half of the hand piecing projects I how have my eye on!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

...Crafty Tote

When Nicole announce the Bag Project of the Month, and specifically her project, I loved it. And waited quite impatiently for the June issue (Volume 13.6) to be published so I could make it. Then I waited pretty impatiently again for the Mama Said Sew fabric to arrive in stores because by that time I knew I wanted to use it for the lining.

Finally, a couple of weekends ago I got around to making it. I use some fabric from a Melbourne screen printing company, Yardage Design, in a sale earlier. This fabric was labelled as an imperfect second but it looks pretty great to me!

For the feature panels on the top I used some basecloth I bought from the same supplier and screen printed some panels of my own with some word art. I used Wordle to create the art and then played around with the size on screen and paper to make them fit roughly inside the pattern piece.

A change from the published pattern - I used two different fabrics for the lining. the red script from Mama Said Sew and the black Newsprint from the same collection by Sweetwater. 

As I have come to expect from Nicole's patterns the instructions included a lot of pictures and information on  techniques to assist in construction and I am sure that is no small part of the quality I was able to achieve with the finished product.

I did find some parts of the pattern difficult to follow and there appeared be a number of errors in the cutting directions and the construction (based on the pictures). For example, extra interfacing needed to be cut for several of the pieces. I am assuming Nicole has noted these as well as she had re-released the pattern under her own brand.

I also made a couple of changes, I dramatically shortened the handle and would shorten it more if I made it again. And the extra fabrics for the pockets. I think they make them easier to see. I used rectangular links for the handle instead of the round ones and use them again but alter the handle size next time to fit it more snugly.

I'm really really happy with it. It fits a huge amount of stuff in it while still having them easy to find. I learned a few new tricks and the virtues of stiffer interfacing. And if you make I can't recommend a walking foot highly enough!

Edited to add: These are the changes I made due to pattern omissions or confusions. 
It isn't to say that the pattern won't work without these changes, careful reading and some prior knowledge should serve you well but knowing what to watch out for can be helpful. The fabric/interfacing/fusible batting requirements as listed in the magazine will be enough for the additional pieces. 

I've emailed Nikki to let her know what I noted and confirm the changes I made were what was intended - I'll update these again based on her responses if needs be. 

1. This one was included on the Homespun website - a template had an incorrect label (there were two Lid Side Panels and one should have read Lid Center Panel) but was the correct size and shape. I actually didn't find this errata until later and it is pretty obvious to pick.
2. You will need 2 x lid and base wall interfacing (the directions only ask you to cut 1)
3. You will need to cut lid and base wall batting (As shown fused in the Step 39 picture on page 48)
4. I also cut a piece of batting for the back-wall hinge (it doesn't ask you to cut any)
5. I also cut an additional batting in the base/lid shape so there was batting in the lid and base.
6. While not technically and error I had huge trouble finding the dimensions of the wall pocket, lid & base wall and the back wall hinge (there are no pattern pieces for these, just dimensions given as they are rectangular). You can find them in Step 15 on page 46.

And my tip - use a walking foot for all steps of the construction!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

...another Hexy MF update

On Friday night I sewed the last (with the exception of a few for the borders) of the flowers. There are 70 there - seven in each of the fabrics.

For those that are mathematically minded interested (I am sure the minded can work it out for themselves) that is 490 basted 1.5" hexies and 8820" of hand sewn seam. 

I spent some time at the inaugural Sew Shells event laying them out on the floor and mixing them up until I was happy with the placement (there were a couple of changes after this picture was taken but it is the one I am working from)

The background is ordered (Robert Kaufman Quilter's Linen in Beige) along with some samples for the stems and leaves.

Better get to adding more columns to these to then!

Monday, November 19, 2012

..uh oh!

I was tiding up in the sewing room early yesterday morning and came across some long neglected knitting.

It wasn't long before I remembered why it had been set aside.

N did volunteer to melt it back together - I said there was no flame going anywhere near the knitting! Luckily a quick trip to the the yarn store for a better quality needle and cable and some sticky tape saved the day!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

...A lovely surprise

In what was a nice surprise towards the end of a pretty busy and slightly stressful week I got a lovely email from Rachel letting me know that she had nominated me for The Lovely Blogger Award.

Thanks Rachel, it is so nice to know that you enjoy reading!

It has been the cause of some embarrassment and stress that it has taken me so long to reciprocate. I blame some computer problems, true, but it feels insufficient. 

But to the point of this post....

The rules for the One Lovely Blog Award are as follows:
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to him/her in your post.
  • Share 7 things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire.
  • Leave a comment on each of these blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

So... my 7 things...

  1. I am absolutely terrified of snakes. I didn't used to be and then within five days several years ago two came into my workplace and there was one in my backyard near the shed when I went to put something away. And I seem to see them I seem to see them in suburban areas - like when I am putting my bin out. Clearly that is a species out to get me :)
  2. I have lived half my life in the country and half living in a city. Not all in one go - I have moved country to city to country to city.. and without meaning it it has worked out to be roughly an even split for about the last 10-15 years. I think that is going to change though and city living will overtake in the next few years.
  3. I have never been north of the equator. I hope that will change in the next year too!
  4. Despite Item 1. I once did the Spit to Manly walk in Sydney. In spring. There was screaming when I came across a lizard in the first 10 minutes but I stuck it out and I am glad I did. You should do it too if you are ever in Sydney and have a spare day. 
  5. I like to cook almost as much as I like to sew
  6. I used to do karate - and almost had a black belt but and so not fit enough for that now.
  7. I get my hair cut twice a year. I would do it more but I haven't found a style I really like in the last 5 years. 
And now the bloggers I'd like to nominate (in no particular order):

1. Rachel at My Messings
2. Nova at A Cuppa and a Catch Up
3. Amy at Badskirt
4. Kaelin at The Plaid Scottie
5. Kerry at VeryKerryBerry
6. Jenny at Jen Kingwell Designs
7. Angela at Fussy Cut
8. Bronwyn at Whippet Good
9. Nicolette at Dutch Comfort
10. Cathy at Cabbage Quilts
11. Cheryl at Dining Room Empire
12. Ayumi at Pink Penguin
13. Lisa at Sunset Seams
14. Sarah at Sew Squirrel 
15. Jennifer at That Girl...That quilt

Thursday, October 25, 2012

...making progress on my Hexy MF

Making slow and steady progress on the flowers for the Hexy MF quilt.

I'm making the original size (72" x 84") and that needs 68 flowers (or 476 hexagons) for the centre panel and 6 large (42) and 2 small (12) for the borders. Plus a few odds and sod for some buds.

I'm at the point where I have 51 of the large flowers sewn together and hexagons based for a further 9. A few more to baste and sew but I'm getting ready for the next step and have the added satisfaction that I can see I'm almost there.

I'll just sew the flowers together in rows and then together into a centre panel. See how casually I throw those two steps together. I doubt it will be a quick step.

Despite that I have decided the time has come to choose and purchase a background fabric.

I want something with texture, not to busy, and I am not married to a colour but it needs to look OK against the flowers and be able to cope with a green (also not yet chosen) for the border stems.

I'm thinking Robert Kaufman Quilters linen. It is solid with a bit of a texture and comes in a good range of colours. When I chose my fabrics for the flowers I was going for a fresh Japanese vibe - something that wouldn't look out of place with linen and that aesthetic was what I went back to in my mind when I started to think about the colour I wanted for the background.

Because of the work that has gone into this one I have taken some extra steps to choose the right background first time. I have visited the LQS but had trouble finding the colour/print combo I want in the stores so have ordered some swatches of several of the Quilters Linens from Pink Chalk Fabrics.
The 2" strips make visualizing a bit more difficult than when I could lay them out on a bolt in the store but I have narrowed it down to these three colours.

Which one do you think?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

...how I EPP

So after my post from the other day I thought I should deliver with this one.

Well I didn't get this done for last weekend as I hoped but it's done now and I hope you find it useful!

EPP is not a quick sewing technique. But it can be taken many places. I will sometimes baste and sew when stopped at traffic lights or at a train crossing, a few minutes at a time in the car travelling from meeting to meeting during the day. And yes, on trips away.

I've read a lot of tutorials, seen a lot of people sewing and even gone to a class. Some I found useful, some not. I'd point you in the directions of the ones I had found useful but I honestly couldn't tell you which there were now. Like the technique itself the evolution of my technique has been a slow progression.

So in the interest of sharing the way I do it a little step-by-step. This is by no means the only way, nor even the only way I have done it. But it is the method that has stuck for me for the longest.

Step 1: Gather your papers and your fabric
I use store bought ready cut papers. I tried cutting my own for a time but I had trouble finding a weight I was happy with (150GSM was the best I could find) and consistency in my cut pieces.

Generally I use papers from Paper Pieces and Patchwork with Busy Fingers. They use different weight papers but both measure the shapes by the length of the sides so are pretty interchangeable. Both are of a quality that means I can use each paper 2-3 times. A more recent bonus is that Paper Pieces will no cut a custom shape for you at no extra cost than the normal cost of the papers if you let them use the design for other customers as well (if not you will need to pay the set-up costs as well).

When cutting my fabric I add a seam allowance of 3/8" rather than the 1/4" that is more customary in patchwork. This is so when I am putting the paper in the middle of the fabric it doesn't have to be prefect and if it moves a little I will still have sufficient allowance to wrap around.

Step 2: Prepare you paper and fabric pairs

I pair a number of fabric/paper pairs and then baste them. I like to secure the paper to the fabric by putting a small circle of Sewline basting glue in the middle of the shape. If it is something like a kite I also put  line down towards the tail. In a large diamond I might do a + shape from point to point. Hopefully you get the idea. I find this holds well over time, doesn't discolour the fabric, stops the paper moving around while basting and does not have the unpleasant side effect of distorting the paper that pinning has.

Step 3: Baste the paper to the fabric
This is probably the area I have tried the most different techniques. I wanted for a long to time to have success without needing to baste through the paper but it was just a no go for me.

I baste by putting the needle in from the front, leaving the knot there. I go anti-clockwise around the shape and take a stitch at each corner ( by pulling up through the fabric hat meets at the corner and then taking an overstitch) before reinserting the needle halfway down the next side.

When the shape is basted I leave a little tail when cutting the thread after overcasting  a couple of times but not knotting the thread.

Step 4: Sew the shapes together
When you get up to this step do yourself a favour and get a new needle. I use sharps for both steps but have two tubes, one marked for basting and the other for sewing.

Start by putting two shapes right sides together and inserting a needle with a knotted thread into the corner. Take a couple of stitches, make a knot or two by putting the needle through the loop of a partly sewn stitch.

Continue overstitching across the edge, taking small stitches and catching the fabric at the point it wraps around the paper but avoiding the paper.

At the end ake sure you go through the corner again and take the overstitches and make the knots again. If you are adding another shape on to this corner directly there is no need to cut the thread here.

Once you have sewn to the outer corner of this shape you will need to secure the thread and cut it. After some trial and error (and a few loose seams) I found that a combination of overstitches and knots works best for me. Much like a tennis player that has a consistent routine I do two over stitches, three knots (by passing the needle through the loop and another overstitch. Like with the basting leave a little tail when you cut the thread.

 Step 5: Removing the papers
Once all of the sides of a shape have been sewn to you can remove the paper. Because the knot was on the right side of the shape I can cut this off very carefully so as not to cut the fabric and then pull the stitches out.

The paper will just pop out (you may need to pull a little to dislodge the glue)

See how the paper shape is a little bent? That is fine and part of haw it has needed to be bent during the sewing phase. If you spread it out and press it down it fine to reuse.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It's not a fast way to get a quilt top, or anything else really but it is a good way to use scraps, have something handy to keep your hand busy and when done it is immensely satisfying.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

...the sign of a good buy

A few weeks ago I happened to be walking through a major Melbourne shopping centre (itself a reasonable rare happening for me these days) and happened to pop into a bookshop.

This was unusual because I seem to have fallen into buying many of my books online recently. Most of the time I can justify the drastically inflated prices in the store but that is a topic for another discussion. 

To the point of the post though - I happened to pick up the latest book by Marian Keyes, the latest (last?) in her Walsh family series. Alongside The Mystery of Mercy Close was a copy of a cookbook, Saved by Cake, written by Marian apparently concurrently with the book and while she was recovering from Depression. It came free with the novel and without denigrating the novel (which I am enjoying but not far into it at the moment) the cookbook was an immediately engaging read.

Helped by the recent influx of visitors and the arrival of some chestnuts in one suitcase I have already made three things from the book 

An Espresso and Walnut Cake

 A rich and dense Hazelnut Torte

and the Chestnut and Rum Brownies

If you ask me a page marked like this is the sign of a good buy.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

...current affairs

At one of the recent Sit and Sew evenings Chris was talking about dating quilts and said that antique quilts are dated from the most recent fabric included in their construction.
When I thought about it later I wondered what happened with the quilts made many years after the fabric for them was purchased but that is a different story.
I was reminded of this bit of information recently when I was ironing some new newsprint fabric picked up from Spotlight.
Some headlines and story content caught my eye....the print is made up of 'clippings' of actual articles that have appeared in the Australian press in recent times.
This one will date on only a quilt but also the fabric that was included in the construction. And will the quilts that this end up in be akin to finding an old newspaper under the lino when renovating.

Friday, October 12, 2012

...EPP kite pillow

In the last few months - actually since the beginning of this year I think - I have been on a bit of an English Paper Piecing bender.

It started about September or October last year I think and took hold in errnest during Stitch in Color's Scrap Attack challenge. 

I surprised myself.

You see several years ago when I was staring to sew more and more I went to a craft show in Homebush. It was the first one I had ever been to, I had downloaded the program from the website and highlighted a number of different activities I wanted to go to during the day. I was obviously a little excited. 

One that was coloured had caught my eye because in the description it spoke of 'take anywhere' sewing. It was one of the short 15 minute presentations at a booth set up down one of the aisles. I don't think I stood there for longer than 5 minutes. There was needle and thread and neither were attached to machine. It looked slow. The first stitches needed to be pulled out after you finished sewing. That just seemed like a fantastic waste of time. I headed off to the next highlighted activity before seeing the next step in the process.

That was my first introduction to English Paper Piecing. It was not an auspicious start.

Since then I dabbled in sewing some hexagons for a week or two but without much conviction. I had no idea what I was going to do with the little paper covered discs when I was done. This little kit is still in the cupboard much the same as the it was years ago.

Fast forward to last September/October. I went interstate for two night to attend a conference. I bought some fabric and a pack of paper pieces. I had grand plans that I would whip up the majority of a quilt top in those two nights. I had obviously forgotten the 5 minutes of the presentation I attended years before. I remembered pretty quickly but obviously forgot just as quickly because come January I decided that was the go to technique for the Quilt-Along.

Clearly I remembered a little more because I bought larger shapes.

It seems to have stuck - not only did I finish the quilt top (and the quilting is coming along) but I have started and even finished a few more since then.

This pillow was made to co-ordinate with N's Cog + Wheel quilt.
There are 72 kites shapes in here and it is then appliqued to the background.
I bound the edges like this one and lapped the zip using this tutorial.
Given the EPP bug seems to have bitten a number of others I have been planning a post on how I EPP, hopefully I will have that done by the weekend!