Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Vintage sewing machines

Vintage sewing machines

'Vintage sewing machines' was a block of the month (BOM) project that I did during 2010.  I finished the piecing and then put it aside as I simply did not know how to quilt it.  I took the top with me on my trip to Salt Lake City and got some valuable advise during my course at Handiquilter, which resulted in me unpicking the borders and redoing them in different fabrics.  What I had set aside for my backing, a dark patterned damask rose print, is now folded up and put away to be used in a different quilt.

Advise I was given included using a similar colour fabric on the back as what most of the quilting on the front is on, so if most of quilting is on a cream background, then it would be sensible to have a cream fabric on the back.  The reason for this is:  if you use a pale colour thread in the top and a pale colour thread in the bobbin, then if you have tension difficulties and stitches get pulled up, it will not show up.  If on the other hand you have quilted with a pale colour thread in the top and a dark thread in the bottom (to match a darker backing fabric), you are likely to see the darker thread pulling through to the front if the tension is not absolutely perfect.  And don't we all know how fickle tension can be.  You can start off with the tension just perfect when the bobbin is newly loaded and full and by the time you have worked your way through to near the end of the bobbin, the tension has changed, only to change again when you have loaded the new bobbin.  Why risk it?

So, having decided that I am going to use a cream backing fabric, I now had a dilemma, as I did not want to quilt with a pale colour thread on the darker printed fabric on the front.  I decided to give YLI's invisible thread a go in a Smokey Grey colour and hoped that the lighter cream thread in the bobbin would not pull through to the front. I am quite pleased with the result, it took a few tries to get the tension just right, but it was definitely worth it.

Border quilted with lace design in swags

Invisible thread on darker printed fabric

Scissors, thread, measuring tape and card with safety pin quilted

I have decided to get a bit of a move on with my 'Dutch Treat' blocks, I have started them in December and have so far only managed to make 32.  That means I still have 164 to go and if I carry on at the same rate as before, that I won't be finished for another 3 years and 9 months, so May 2017 !!!!!
I will have to encourage hubby to go on lots more trips in the car or by train, so I can get lots of hand sewing done.  These are sosme of my finished blocks. Watch this space, I will do a monthly update from now on, on my progress, to help me keep to my target of at least 10 blocks a month.

Some of my completed "Dutch treat" blocks

Festival of Quilts NEC 2013

Okay, I have to admit, this is the first time I have ever been to the  Festival of Quilts. But hey, it is in August (just when 2 of my men have birthdays) in the middle of summer holidays and we are usually in France at this point.  So, all things considered it was more luck really that I could go this year and it took a lot of forward planning on my behalf to facilitate it too.
I had booked my hotel almost as soon as the dates for the Festival had been announced and then, as soon as the workshops became available for booking, I was online and booked the ones I wanted to do. Dates were blocked out in my diary and NOTHING was going to interfere with my plans.
I had booked full day masterclasses for Thursday and Saturday, with a lecture and twilight class on Friday, which left the rest of Friday and all day Sunday to do shopping and look at all the wonderful quilts.  Had a lovely dinner on Thursday evening at The Boot at Lapworth with friends from the Japan trip, then had coffee with some more friends on Friday morning, where we discussed possiblities of future trips.  Met up with some friends from Colorado trip too during the day.
Managed to get quite a bit of shopping done too, despite not a lot of free time for this.  I have decided not to buy any fabric, but as usual could not resist.

What I did buy lots of was paints, acid paints, Procion paints, transfer dyes as well as paints to use with the sets of thermofax screens I bought, and stencils as well as Inktense colour blocks and some mica paints.
I also managed to find some Karisma glue pens with refills, which I have been trying to find since I have seen them used by Yoko Saito in her appliques, at a stall selling Appliquick tools. These are amazing and having seen them demonstrated, I bought the full set and will report in a future blog about them. I also bought the Sizzix Big Shot, with hexagon dies and small circle dies which will speed up the process of cutting out these shapes enormously.  It is a pity they don't do a diamond shape yet as I have over 500 diamonds to cut out for a project next January.

I did 2 workshops with Wendy Cotterill, first Layers of Illussion, where we printed images onto fabric and then used transfer dyes on laser copies to transfer text onto Crystal Spunned Bonded which was laid over the fabric collage. I now have a lovely piece of "art" to refer back to when I want to use one of these techniques.  All that remains now is to sew the 2 layers together and then jazz it up a bit with stamping in a glittery paint.

Using transfer dyes on Crystal Spunned Bonded

Printing an immage onto fabric

Assembling the collage

Overlaying the collage with Crystal Spunned Bonded

Wendy's class sample

 In the second workshop, we used acid paints to dye Evolon and then sprayed glitter paints over the dyed Evolon, before soldering chiffon ribbon onto this.  We learned techniques like painting bondaweb and applying this to the Evolon and overlaying this with more chiffon or tulle studded with crystals (more playing with soldering irons)  and then produced our own little notebooks.
So much fun and Wendy was an excellent tutor.

Some of the materials used to produce notebook

My completed notebook

I also did a workshop with Deborah O"Hare called 'Picture it with paint'.  Deborah provided us with 3 kits complete with all that we needed to produce 3 pictorial little quilts, although we did not have time to complete all 3, the techniques to complete the 3 quilts were all learned and we had a lot of fun experimenting with Pebeo paints and aftersun gel (!).  Deborah was such an enthusiastic tutor and if I have the chance, I would do more workshops with her.

Deborah on the right with samples of what we are aiming for

One that Deborah has done earlier

Another one that Deborah has done earlier

WIP - showing how to add detail to flower fields

Another version of Tulip Fields by Deborah

After the class, I looked in on Deborah's stall and ended up buying loads of her hand dyed fabrics, I have put them aside for now, I have some ideas of what I would like to make with them, but it will have to wait a while so that I can finish some other long standing projects first.

Despite being so busy with classes and shopping, I managed to make time to see all the wonderful quolts too. Needless to say, there were so many lovely quilts on display and it was so hard to decide which photos to put on, so this is just a small collection of some of my favourites.

'Otono'  -  Angelines Artero
Close up of 'Otono'

'On the edge' -   Hilary Beattie

'Windfall'   -  Christine Restall

Close up of Windfall

'Transition dragonfly'  -  Sandra Wyman

'Arabesque'  - Antonella Cibin

'Inner circle, Flower of Scotland'  -  Kay Bell

Close up of 'Inner circle'

'Festival in the city 2011'  - Kathy Unwin

'Dragon challenge' -  Susan Orchin

'Extreme weather'  - Kjersti Thoen

'Will you stay with me'  - Pauline Barnes

'As time goes by'  -  Lene Romann-Aas

As always, I am in awe of the skill of the quilt makers, but have also come away with so much inspiration.  What a wonderful quilt show!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Foundation piecing - Sea Urchins

When I first started patchwork, I did a beginners course where most of the basic techniques of patchwork were touched on. By 'touched on' I mean that a 2 hour class would be dedicated to the technique and we would do a small sample in class to be finished off at home in that technique. This would then be brought back in to class a week later and we could discuss any problems we have encountered. I did not like the technique, I found it frustrating to hold up against the light to see if the placement was correct and endless pinning, to then find that sometimes the piece was just too small, so have never again attempted it.

I decided to give it another go after my retreat with Ricky Tims (he has a totally different method of doing foundation piecing that does not involve cutting individual shapes) when I found a pattern by Judy Niemeyer for Sea Urchins.  It looked ambitious and there were a LOT of points, but I decided that if I was going to do it, I might as well get a lot of practise in and get to do it well.

Opening the pattern was so daunting, I just glanced at it and then put it away again for 6 months, thinking that it was too complicated.  Besides, before I could start it, I needed to get photocopies made, and as I wanted to start immediately, that meant doing another project.  So, while I started on another quilt, I decided to get the photocopies done, so that next time I looked at it, I would be ready to go (no excuses then), but of course once the photocopies were there, it niggled at me and because I had taken the fabrics out and TOUCHED them, I kept looking at them and wanted to TOUCH them some more.

I stopped doing new projects and just finished off other on the go projects while I waited for a moment when I knew I would have lots of time on my own (did not need any distractions) and then took the plunge.  All my chores were done, my husband was away, kids at school and uni, and I had a week to myself.  Just as well as it turned out!

I followed the instructions to the letter, in the order they were listed, first cutting out all the pieces, then bagging them up with the foundations papers (why so many bags?).  At this point I was desperate to start sewing, but thought it best to start early in the morning rather than at the end of the day, so I had a play with my threads and decided which I was going to use for the quilting.

Got up extra early next day to start the sewing, and believe me when I say there is not much that can get me out of bed early. Started with very carefully reading the instructions, which at this point made no sense to me at all, so read through them again. Decided to make a coffee first and then start.  Surprisingly, once I started, it all made perfect sense and it must be the most pain free, frustrated free way of doing foundation piecing.  It is so easy once you know what you are doing, no squinting up through a light to see if it is pinned in the right place, just a super easy fail proof method.  It helps to have the right tools though! I can't recommend this method enough, only wished I knew of it years ago, I am now hooked and have ordered 2 more of Judy's patterns.

First few units done 
Second lots of units done 

What I did find surprising was how time consuming, and at times down right boring, it is to do a foundation pieced quilt, having said that, this quilt has got a LOT of points and there are a lot of simpler foundation pieced patterns out there that are a lot simpler. But every minute of working on this quilt has been worth it, the results are spectacular and if I can achieve this on my first attempt, I am happy to do many more like this.  This is also the first quilt I have made with inset curves.  I found this surprisingly easy, although the smallest circles were a bit harder to manipulate.

Work in progress

My initial idea for the backing was to use a darkish blue batik, but when I looked in my local shop, they did not have the right shade of blue.  I was about to give up when I spotted a blue with lots of circle shapes by Kaffe Fassett.  These even looked a bit like sea urchins with a bit of imagination and the colours fit perfectly with the colours on the front, so I was happy.  I could start quilting straight away.

I wanted the quilting in the background to blend in and Glide Medium Grey does that perfectly.  For the back of the quilt, I used Glide Ocean, I also used this for the spikes inside the urchins on the front.  For the spikes of the pale coloured urchins, I used a variegated Superior thread.  This is the first time I have used Glide thread and I love the sheen on it.  Glide threads are currently not available in the UK, so have to be ordered from the USA.  I got a whole box full of them for my birthday from my husband, and I can see I am going to be using up lots of birthdays for more (LOL)

My usual way of binding a quilt, is to machine stitch the binding on the front of the quilt and then hand sew it onto the back, but I would like to do some piping on the edge, so this too will be a first for me.  I have ordered the Piping Hot Tool, so will give this a go.

Quite pleased with the effect you get with the piping, it took a bit of fiddling in the corners, and I had to undo the first corner twice before I had the method worked out.  I followed instructions I found on youtube, the binding strip is sown down onto the binding strip by laying it down by eye onto a centre fold ironed on the binding.  After all the effort of cutting and sewing precisely, this seemed a bit slapdash to me, so next time, I will mark a line on the binding before I sew it together.

This is the completed quilt:

Sea Urchins completed

Updates on other projects:
Bag making
I have agreed with some of my quilting travelling buddies, that when we meet up at the Festival of Quilts, we will all be bring a new bag that we have made from fabric that we have bought in Japan.  I followed a pattern in Japanese, which, NO, I can not understand! But was told it is easy as there are lots of diagrams and you just follow the diagrams.  Well that is okay if you know the basics of bag making and know for example how to put a zipper in, but my sewing experience begins and ends with quilts and the occasional other small crafty project.  I have made one or two bags before, but never with zips in, so there were lots of muttering but it is finally done and I am very pleased with the result.  I even managed to insert two pockets in the inside (not included in the instructions) for my phone and keys.  This is the bag:

Sideboard runners
These fabrics are all pieces of silk, that I bought for next to nothing in Japan at the Tokyo International Quilt Show.  The silk has been taken from old kimonos and is a little bit stiff and heavy, so ideal for a runner.

Large sideboard runner

Matching runner for telephone table

Exhibition on the theme "Water, water" in November
Guidelines for this is that it has to be a wall hanging with dimensions no larger than 12" by 24".  Inclusion is by selection, so it is not guaranteed that my piece will be included, but it has been so much fun making this piece and a bonus was that all the fabrics were left overs from other projects.  I have started sewing on the beads, the beads look like glistening drops of rain.

"Rain, rain..."

Next week it is the Festival of Quilts and I am meeting up with my lovely quilting travelling buddies and doing some masterclasses.  I will post some pictures here when I get back.
After having the wettest and coldest springs for years and a very late start to summer, we have now made up for it with Mediterranean like temperatures unheard of in England.  I plan to make the most of the glorious weather while it lasts.  Before we know it, it will be autumn again.