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 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!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

...see what Chloe made!

Source: via Chloe on Pinterest

When I got up on Monday morning to get ready for work I was a bit tired after a very busy weekend and with the prospect of a frantic wee ahead of me. I email waiting in my inbox was the perfect start to the week.

Chloe had sent me a link to a picture of a quilt she had made using my Salt Air directions on the Moda Bakeshop.

Isn't it great? Thanks for allowing me to share Chloe.

As an aside I have no idea if this is the first time anyone else has used one of my tutorials - I didn't have  flickr group but I have started one you anyone to add pics to of items they have made or share hints and tips. It is sort of selfish really - I want to see the things you make!

Monday, October 8, 2012

...Japanese crafty gifts

Last year when I turned 30 I went to Bali for a celebratory trip with some friends. This year it was N's turn and he went to Japan with some of his friends.

Naturally I gave him some crafty gift ideas I might appreciate on his return.

As some background he is really supportive of the time I spend sewing but he hates visiting Spotlight and quilt shops. I have been know to be given time limits when we have stopped somewhere in trips out together. And he always waits in the car.
So after a few days he went on a trip to 'Tokyo Spotlight' and let me know later in the day that he hadn't been able to find anything from the list and 'it was not more fun visiting there just because it was in Japan'. A few days later he took a train out to one of the other stores I mentioned - to find it shut and shuttered. At that point he said my gift was coming from the airport.
 As luck would have it a few days later he happened upon a gift shop outside of Tokyo and found some of the books I had mentioned - but they weren't for sale. Eventually, apparently, the language barrier was difficult to overcome, with many apologies from the girl in the shop a map was drawn and directions were provided to a store in town for some books and fabrics purchased.

The fabric - minimal as I'm trying to use up what I have - consisted of two napkins from Echino (at least I think that is what they are, they have finished edges)...

...and these two that seem to be cut from the length of the bolt. I especially love the cranes.

It's all great, all the more because he chose them himself and I know this was not the most fun he had on the trip. Apparently that goes to eating pig guts and bee larvae - and no, there is no sarcasism in that comment Seriously.
I wanted to see if this was a real thing - I think it might stay just like this!
And I think he has earned a few passes when it comes to fabric shop visits!