Thursday, 19 February 2015

Busy month...

Not so long ago, we were busy putting all the Christmas decorations away, preparing to go back to uni and school and looking forward to getting some serious piecing and quilting done. I have decided which quilt shows I will be going to and booked some classes, then worked out a time table for what needs doing and by what date. This is scary, but at least I can plan ahead and work to a schedule, which if I did not do this, I would think "Loads of time, will get to it in due course!"
My Handiquilter was due for a service and after my needle dropped out while stitching just before Christmas, the timing has been just ever so slightly off, so I could not risk putting Whistler back on the frame until Alan had come and done his magic. I now have done over 10 000 000 stitches on my HQ. Lesson learnt re needle - check the screw holding the needle in place every time I change my bobbin!  This has never happened before and I have not heard of it happening to anyone else, and I hope it does not happen to any of you, but if you are reading this, then do yourself a favour and just check that little screw next time you use your longarm.
Whilst waiting for Alan to come out, I decided to do some serious piecing, so that I can just concentrate on the quilting bit later.

My piecing projects in January:

Fire Island Hosta
This one is a foundation pieced pattern by Quiltworx, and was much easier than what it looks. The most difficult part was deciding which colours to use and where. I am very happy with how this one has turned out so far, just have the borders to add to it.

Fire Island Hosta

Jack's chain
A picture of this quilt was posted recently on Facebook and it just looked so lovely that I there and then ordered the pattern from Lessa Siegele.  I replaced the appliqué flowers in the original pattern with little hexie flowers. Have just finished the quilt top, will be quilting this one next.  For the moment I do not have a name yet for this quilt, so will just call it "Jack's chain" for now.

Quilt for Etienne
My eldest son asked me to make a quilt for him and bring it with when I go to see him in Australia. Not that he needs a quilt for warmth in Cairns (!!!) but he would like a colourful quilt to drape over the sofa in his apartment, to brighten the place up a bit and also as a reminder of home. I had bought some fabrics in colours that he likes and started playing with ideas of how to put it together. Decided on a design with lots of flying geese. The fabric was quite stiff even after I have washed it, but I thought it would soften with washing and I would wash it again once I had done the quilting, so proceeded with cutting out and stitching.
No problems with the first seams, but as soon as I started seams where there were 4 layers of fabric together, my machine would just cut through the thread. I could also hear a different sound from the machine.
I changed the thread, replaced the needle, changed the thickness of fabric from "medium"to "heavy", lengthened the stitch, then changed needle again. All to no avail. Still happened. Gave up and went to bed in a sulk. Thought about it some more during the night, only thing that I could think off that changed was the different fabric. I had stitched perfectly fine through 6 layers of fabric the day before on the Jack's chain quilt, so why have I got problems now?
Decided to go test and see if it was the fabric. Took 2 totally different pieces of fabric and started stitching through just 2 layers and gradually added extra layers until I had 8 layers together. No problem, machine behaved impeccably and not so much as a whisper to indicate the transition from less fabric layers to many more fabric layers. Good! So, my machine is out of its mood. Started again with the flying geese. Problems straight away with thread cutting and change in noise. Again, nothing else changed, just the fabric.
So, problem is the fabric. And if I have this kind of problem when piecing, can you imagine what I am going to have when I start to quilt it? Decided to ditch this one and restart with some different fabrics, so back to drawing board and will need to start this one later. A shame really, as I think it would have been a lovely quilt.
Having spoken to quite a few quilters, this is what I have learned: In times gone by, we used to all buy much more fabric (stash) and fabric stores would have a reasonably quick turnaround on the fabrics they stocked. Now, times are harder and we do not build up our stash as we used to, quilters today are much more likely to buy for the projects they are working on or are planning. As a result, fabric sits on the shelves much longer than what they used to. And what would we as quilters like when we buy fabric? Nice clean and crisp fabric that does not look creased or dusty. How do the manufacturers achieve this? By adding lots more chemicals, starches, etceteras to the fabric, so that it looks better on the rolls.
The fabric I have bought clearly had excessive amounts of 'additives' in it, if even after washing at 40C it still felt stiff and hard. I will only be buying fabric that feels reasonably soft to the touch from now on.

So, deciding to use fabric from my stash rather than go and buy replacement fabrics for Etienne's quilt, this is what I have come up so far:

My quilting projects in January: 

Kirsty's quilt
Kirsty brought this quilt to me desperate to have it custom quilted. She had been quoted the most astronomical amount to have it quilted because the quilt would have needed turning so many times to get the straight lines through the 'chains' of the Irish chain. Kirsty wasn't at all convinced about the straight lines, so we discussed alternative ways of quilting the chains and decided on a continuous curve design with a heart in the blocks. Each tiny little block measures only 1", they were made out of lots of scraps, but doesn't the colours just zing? I love this quilt and wish it was mine.
I thought this one would be a quick one to quilt, not so with those tiny little squares, I must have spent around 26 hours on it, and it is not that heavily quilted.


I finished all the micro quilting in all the areas I wanted and took it off the frame, ready to block. Then thought, something is missing here, it needs a little bit more doing to it, so loaded it again next morning and spent another day quite happily stitching in some more background. This time, when it came off, I really had to stop. Sometimes it is just hard to stop, I loved the quilting on this one and could easily have carried on for another day or two, but over quilting it would have spoilt it. So glad I stopped when I did. I have now added all the little Swarovski crystals (again - knowing when to stop is an art that I need to master) and hanging sleeve is in place. All ready for Malvern.  Will post photos of the complete Whistler in my next post.