Thursday, 22 May 2014

Last Loch Lomond show and winning at Malvern

Last Loch Lomond Show
I have known about the Loch Lomond show since it started, but it is a long way to travel and with young children at school, it has not been possible for me to attend, but when I found out that this is to be the last year that it is being held, I wanted to go. And what a spectacular show it is. Held in different churches in and around Dunbarton, Balloch and Alexandria, there were so many quilts to see. One of the displays was of the Chinese Whispers that I have heard so much about and I was intrigued to see how they were interpreted, never expecting there to be so many entries.

There were several participating groups, each with at least 8 members. Only the first person in the group was shown the picture and they made a quilt to represent that picture. Once they have finished their quilt, it was passed on to the next member in the group, with no other clues. They then make a quilt using the first quilt as guidance and so it goes on. All the quilts were displayed with an explanation of how each one interpreted the quilt that they have been given. Lots of excitement and confused faces and even hilarity, it was almost more fun watching the spectators as it was looking at the quilts. I am just showing the entries from one group, to illustrate what can happen

Original picture

Number 1by Lorna Hunter

Number 2 by Joanna Simpson

Number 3 by Catherine Edgar

Number 4 by Janette Fairer

Number 5 by Nicola Howell

Number 6 by Wendy Bland

Number 7 by Janet Chisholm

Number 8 by Hilary Hale

 It is not possible to post pictures of all the quilts I liked, but some of my favourites were:

Seapinks at Sandwick, by Sheena Norquay

Chinese Whispers entry by Delia Jarvis

The magic of Skye II by Hanne Asbey

Detail of The magic of Skye II

"Callanish stones" by Mary Wilson

"Big tree country" by Nancy Smith

"Flying high" by Megan Barley, winner of Stretching the limits competition

The Commonwealth remembers by Senga Bain

and just look at these super cute little Red Hot Pokers, don't you just love them?

On this occasion my husband was with me and had his own favourites too:

Shipyards of the river Clyde by Gillian Johnston

 and Floral emblems of Commonwealth, Teamwork winner

Winning at Malvern 
I had problems with my mobile phone while staying in Scotland for the Loch Lomond show, so when my husband got a text from my son, asking him to get me to phone home asap, I was worried that I was going to get some bad news. So, I sat down on our room balcony, mentally preparing myself before phoning home. Son reassured me that everyone was okay but that Malvern show had been cancelled but that my quilt will be posted back, so I don't have to worry. For a split second, I believed him, then thought he must be joking, then worried why he asked me to phone him so urgently, then wondered if he was teasing me because I did maybe get a merit. He laughed and told me I actually won an award. When he said it was for "Use of colour", I was really pleased that I was sitting down. He congratulated me and then just as I was about to say goodbye, announced that actually I have won another award, this one for "Striking design". I just shrieked, so husband came outside to see what was going on. I repeated to him what son had told me, then heard my son say that there was another award, for "Longarm quilting".
By now I was speechless, my husband grinning from ear to ear in front of me, my son enjoying this conversation enormously, and I could hear my daughter giggling loudly over the phone. I am not often speechless, but when he then told me that I also won a sewing machine as the "Theme category" winner, I was ready to burst into tears. Lots of congratulations, and about to put phone down, when the cheeky monkey said "And by the way, you are also the Overall winner", now I was convinced he was just teasing me so passed the phone to my husband who had the sense to get the phone number to confirm all this. And then followed several sleepless nights trying to come to terms with all this. Kutch diamonds has also been awarded a judge's choice by Karen Milne.

We travelled to Malvern on Saturday and arrived at the show on Sunday. What an exciting day! I met so many lovely ladies, talked to so many about my quilt and answered so many questions about it.  Met up with one of my quilting buddies and her mum, had a lovely natter over coffee and managed to get some shopping done too and walked around all the lovely quilts on display. I feel enormously privileged that I have a lovely group of quilting buddies that offer so much support and advise and is there for me when things go a bit wrong, they are all very special to me and I am so looking forward to meeting up with all of them at the Festival of Quilts. I also need to say that this quilting life I live is possible because of the support I have from my family, they don't always get fed and has to make do with meals thrown together last minute, (I am very lucky that they can all cook !) but they get that this means a lot to me. How lucky am I ?

My ribbons

My trophies

Kutch diamonds - Champion at Quilts UK, Malvern 2014 

Month of May

Originally, I have set aside May to do the long arm quilting on Mr Morris's garden, but I have had a disaster with Mr Morris, so that is now at the bottom of my UFOs, to be forgotten about until I get to the bottom again. More about this in another post.
So, as I now have a whole month with no plans, I decided to make it my month of finishing all (or as many as I can) of my unfinished projects (UFOs), so after tidying up and cleaning the studio (isn't it amazing how much fluff cotton can create?) I dug out the box of unliked, unfinished, need to rip out or redo projects. Rather than deciding which order I was going to do them in, there are MANY to choose from, I decided to tackle them from the bottom.

Linus quilts
I had 4 just waiting to have their labels stitched on, so I started with those and handed them over to our area rep this weekend and boy, did that feel good. Purchased some fleece fabric for 2 more and then loaded them onto HQ. Now, I have never done any sewing before with fleece so didn't know what to expect.  I loaded the first one with the selvedges to the sides and decided to do some wave lines with a ruler.  Tension was fine, although I had to change to a bigger needle, I used King Tut thread in the top with Bottomline in the bobbin.  The stitches just disappeared into the fleece on the back.  In order not to stop and start, I quilted the lines horizontally (the fleece is only 60" wide, so that meant I could not load the quilt width wise). This caused me considerable trouble as the fabric just kept moving with the machine when starting on the sides. The side clamps just got in the way of the ruler base, so I would definitely not do ruler work near the edge of a fleece quilt again. The wave lines looked lovely whilst still loaded onto HQ, but when I took the quilt off, the top seemed loose and puffy in-between the stitch lines. I have obviously pulled the backing too tight, but it looks okay.

So, I was going to learn from previous experience. Next one was loaded, again, with selvedges to the sides, NO rulerwork near the edges, I thought. Pantograph will do, but then the quilt started talking and begging for a linear design.  I have not yet tried my groovy boards, so I thought I will try this, surely the stylus can't get in the way.  I chose to use Baptist fan, but with the 2 clearly defined borders at the top and bottom of the quilt, I wanted to do something different here. First to do the centre panel. All worked fine (could have done with 3 boards though, rather than 2 as I kept having to reposition one before I got to the end of the row) until I got to the last row.  EEK! Not enough space to do a full row! Note: find out how to do this for future quilts!
This caused a bit of hassle. I stood at the front of the machine, rather than at the back so that I could stop at the point where the needle hit the border, run to the back, lifted stylus out of groove to right next to groove, run back to front of machine, continue to stitch till needle next hit border and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and ……… exercise done for the day!
I did then use rulers for the border design but did the last 6" freehand, having done the design in the centre section of the border first, it was easy as my eye was already trained in.
Very happy with this one, no pulling or puckering.  My daughter calls the baptist fan design, the "rainbow quilt stitch" so I am calling this my rainbow quilt.

These two are both Linus quilts, I think they are very much suited to teenagers and they will be handed over at the end of May.

Another Linus quilt 

 The heart blocks in this quilt was the result of playing with my new DSM 6 years ago. I did 5 blocks as I figured by the end of 5, I will have had chance to practise enough hills and valleys that I will know how to deal with them. The blocks were then sewn into a quilt top, intended for Linus, but I just never got around to getting the quilting done. Had a lovely time quilting butterflies and dragonflies (with heart shaped wings)  and flowers into the open blocks, then thought I would try out some feathers in the centre.

I drew a stencil onto paper of hearts linked together in a chain, then transferred this onto the strippy batik borders. Decided there and then the next thing I need to buy is a pencil or pen that will show up on any colour batik. I tried white chaco pen, blue water-soluble, purple air erasable, white fabric marker and pink Sewline pencil. In the end I just laid the pattern on top of the quilt, just above the area I was going to stitch and quilted it free hand. It turned out all right, but I know it can look a lot better, if I can follow a line. So, I am now the new owner of several new pounce pads (pink and blue), a yellow chalk pencil, a Fons and Porter marker and some thicker water soluble pens. Hopefully I can mark on any colour with those.

My first quilt
I never finished the first quilt I made. I liked the look of log cabin quilts and thought I could manage it, it was after all just straight stitching, so I borrowed a book from my local library and bought lots of matching cream fabrics, all with pink roses in varying sizes, some with trellises, others with stripes. The straight stitching was fine, having managed to cut the strips with scissors to the exact size they needed to be, and my blocks turned out rather nicely. I thought I was very clever with the way I cut my centre squares "fussy" so that a little pink rose sat exactly in the middle of it. Did all 36 blocks (they were BIG blocks) and then came the laying out to decide which order to stitch them together. Problem….no contrast between the blocks, they were ALL cream, no light our dark. But I plodded on, thought it would look okay once I have stitched a border on around them, I could always go for pink to liven it up a bit. Those were the days when Debbie Mumm fabrics were all the range, and only shop I knew of where I could get cotton fabric, was Hobbycraft. The only pinks they had were baby pink, bright pinks or salmony pink, no pretty rosebud pinks! So, I stuck with the creams. Finished the top and started looking for wadding. My husband wanted a warm quilt, so I bought the thickest polyester (and I mean THICK!) that I could find. I could not find fabric wide enough for the backing and did not want a seam down the middle of it, so in a flash of inspiration, I bought a flat double bed sheet, you guess it, in cream! Dare I admit this? It was polyester/cotton because I thought it would crease too much if it was cotton. Having had several attempts at pinning and then tacking the layers together, then finding out that I was expecting another baby, I gave up. I put the wadding away for later and sewed the top to the sheet and it became a duvet cover, with buttons to fasten at the lower end. We used it for quite a while before I got fed up with how boring it looked and it found it's way into a charity shop. Never took a photo of it, no point really, it just looked like an ordinary duvet cover.

Lady of the lake

Lady of the lake
 So, my first proper quilt (never finished this) came next out of the box of UFOs. Decision time, am I going to finish it now or get rid of it?  It has been in this box for 13 years. The design is called "Lady of the lake" and I found the pattern in a magazine that was lying on the coffee table at a friends house. She had not finished the magazine, but promised to pass it on to me when she was done with it. We then heard that Diana Spencer had been killed in a car crash and the whole nation went into morning. A few days later, the announcement came that she was to be buried on the family estate on an island in the middle of the lake. I happen to be paging through the magazine at the time and the name just jumped out at me. I had to make this quilt.

I made templates out of cardboard from cereal boxes and marked my triangle shapes on the reverse of the fabric, then cut them all out by hand. I could only sew when the baby was napping, so I just stitched one block at a time, had never heard of speed piecing, so it was SLOW. Eventually had the top finished, I already had this lovely thick piece of all polyester wadding (grin), so it was pinned together, this time with an all cotton sheet, which I had bought in a sale just for this purpose. Hand-tied the centres of the large triangle blocks, but it seemed a bit too loose, so decided that I will hand quilt around the large squares formed by the large triangles.

My first attempt at quilting

But it was summer and this quilt was so HOT, so it got put away until winter, by which time baby didn't nap anymore. Quilting in the evenings while hubby watches television in dimmed light didn't work either, so once baby was old enough to go to playgroup, I started getting fed up with bits of wadding coming undone at the edges. Had some matching check fabric, which I cut on the bias (why?) into strips of binding. This I stitched on single layer(!), like in dress making, by hand as the quilt would not co-operate with my sewing machine. Stitched 2 opposite sides (was NOT going to attempt mitred corners), then did a bit of quilting, but stitches would not match previous quilted stitches in size, so got put away. When I fell pregnant again, had to make space for new baby, could not find the fabric that I had cut into strips for remainder of binding, remembered that I used it for a belt to keep my son's Joseph tunic from tripping him up in last nativity play, but still could not find it anywhere. Off to Hobbycraft to get some more to find that they have sold out a long time ago. Okay, not to be deterred, I kept looking and eventually found some very similar looking fabric in John Lewis. Now determined that this quilt will get finished, I completed the last 2 sides of the binding. Started on remaining quilting, but baby decided to come early. I found a very nice box for it and it has been in that box until now.

Back of Lady of the Lake

Asked my quilting buddies what to do with it… consensus, to frog it, throw poly wadding away, get rid of binding and do some magic on it. So, frogging now done, wadding gone to wadding heaven, few stains to deal with, then I am going to make this quilt bigger with extra borders, maybe even some extra piecing and quilt it beautiful ! I can never now throw this quilt away, it has been on a very long journey with me, when it is done, it will be our picnic rug.

No name yet quilt

I have 25 of these blocks, all identical. The idea was to sew them together on point and I have all the setting triangles cut out too. The blocks were made before  HQ  and I quilted them as I went along. They looked all right, I had just bought a walking foot and was pleased with them and if we had not moved house just then, I probably would have finished it. The colours were chosen to fit in with our guest room and this did not match the new guest room, so into my very useful box.
When I took them out of said box, I just thought that I can do so much better now, so I spent 2 very pleasant evenings frogging them too. I will add the sashing strips and setting triangles next and then it will be ready to do some serious playing. Decisions, decisions… will I do ruler work or use stencils, quilt them all the same or do different quilting designs in different blocks. Will I do something easy or try something new?

This is where I am up to. Had to stop as Loch Lomond show is on and then Malvern. Hoping to get a bit more done after the 2 shows though. Think I might declare May the MONTH OF UFOs

Monday, 5 May 2014

Kutch Diamonds

Kutch Diamonds
So much fun quilting this, although having spent over 100 hours on the quilting so far, it is time to finish it and start on something new!

 The following are work in progress photos:

Love this little swirl with the cheeky horn at the top

Love"egg and dart" border, a friend is designing a ruler like this for me :-)

Feather spine

Large diamond blocks in border

Smaller diamond blocks 

Centre of quilt all done

Add caption

Still need to quilt infills on large diamond blocks in border

My favourite block design in the quilt

Threads I used:
Glide - which for this project behaved impeccably and gave me no trouble at all
Madeira Polyneons - my favourite quilting thread so far
Precencia - hated this, so much fluff!
Bottomline - for micro stitching, used in all the main colours, stitched beautifully, but the Green colour 613 caused LOTS of trouble, will keep this one for bobbin from now on
Needle - used size 14 throughout for all threads
Wadding - Quilters dream cotton 100%

Due to the thickness of the seams in places I have had a few bumps and when doing ruler work I occasionally had trouble when moving anti clockwise between 4 o'clock and 3 o'clock.

I have mainly stuck to my original drawings for the quilting design, with just a few minor changes.

The original pattern, if I followed it, would have had an extra border on, but this would have made the quilt larger than 96", which is the maximum size for this quilt to be if I am going to enter it into a show, so I have omitted the last border and decided to do a decorative stitch on the outside binding.

Quilting completed, now to just add some crystals 

Back of quilt

In order to add a bit of "diamondy bling" to the quilt, I have bought a hot fix tool for crystals and started adding a few crystals, but this is sooooo addictive and once you start, you don't want to stop!  I hope I have added just the right amount of crystals and not overdone it, but I am happy with it. Now to post it off to Malvern, where I have entered it in the category "Diamonds are forever"

Posting the quilt

Being the first large quilt that I am entering into a show, I wasn't too sure about how to post it.  I have read some advise that states that it should be rolled around an inner tube and others that said to post it in a box. Having spent so much time blocking it, I decided to go with a tube.  This proved to be not as easy as I thought, the fabric shops I asked for tubes, did have some, but the longest was around 60", so a friend suggested getting a plastic drainpipe from the hardware store.  I was very pleased to get one, felt a bit foolish driving home with it sticking out of the passenger window…
Wrapped my quilt beautifully around the tube, with the acid free paper and then bubble wrap to stop any water damage before wrapping it in strong brown paper. Then went online to organise the collection of said quilt and NO ONE would accept a parcel that length! Maximum size anyone would take, and that was only one company, was 70" and was it expensive! Even more once I have added the insurance , so it was duly unwrapped and folded up and put into a box just big enough to contain it (SOB…all that blocking gone to waste!).  Back to the computer to book the collection and it was not much cheaper to go in a box.  At least I know it has arrived as it was signed for. Just hope the fold creases will hang out before the start of the show. Note to self…find out how other quilters post their quilts! iIf anyone has any advise on this, please leave a comment here, I would really appreciate it.

Kiwi quilt done

Kiwi quilt done
I unexpectedly had  a bit of free time this week, so got on with the quilting of the Kiwi quilt. The quilt was made with New Zealand fabrics depicting New Zealand fauna and flora.
My son requested that I outline the birds and not quilt over them and that I use an eco-friendly batting, so I decided to try bamboo.

The birds were outlined with black Glide thread, then I followed the lines of the flowers and grasses, before micro quilting the background to make the birds pop up more

The lizards and tuatara were outlined in green Glide thread, I added some highlights to the plants and grasses and the used brown Glide thread in the background to make it recede.  The rocks were not quilted as that made them seem more three dimensional

The design in the sashing is a simplified Maori design, which I stitched free hand in Flax Glide thread. I just love the little slices of kiwi fruit.

Another simplified Maori design

Silver ferns stitched in Light Grey Glide thread on the outer borders

I have used bamboo batting in this quilt, and had some problems with bearding.  It has however turned out incredibly soft despite some very dense quilting in places. Not sure I would use it again though.

The back of the quilt, the backing fabric is green Ponga Koru, although in the photo it looks more beige

Henley Arts Trail
It is that time of year again, and this time, I was actually at home and could go to see the lovely quilts on display. I have three quilts in the exhibition, "Lovesong", "Vintage Sewing machines" and "Tonight it rains".  I spent all day on Saturday as a volunteer at the  event and loved introducing some newcomers to the art of quilting, even helped someone who asked for advise on a quilt that she is making for a grandchild who lives in Australia and another one with fabric choices for a baby quilt.

Tonight it rains
Loch Lomond Quilt show
This year is the last year that this show will be on, and it is my first visit to the show. I have entered "Sea urchins'' into the show, and am really looking forward to getting some feedback on this.  Again, I will be a marshall at the show on the Friday, and I am looking forward to meeting some quilting friends that I have not seen in a while. Watch this space, as I am going to post loads of photos of lovely quilts here.
  Then on Saturday, we are setting off early to go to Malvern show, we (my husband and me) will only be there for Sunday, but on this occasion, I will not be buying, so am only interested in seeing the quilts on display.  I have of course, also entered my quilt "Kutch diamonds" into this show, so it will be nice to see my quilt hanging amongst the others and I'm looking forward to getting some feedback on my quilt.