Thursday, April 17, 2014

I've got my work cut out......

The prospect of four days off is intoxicating!  All the things I could long as I don't waste too much time relaxing.

I'm determined to make good progress on the appliqué border, so first thing this morning I prepared the remaining background strips, cut the rest of the bias strips
and cut out enough paper leaf shapes.  I'm doing a few at a time, in between other things, so I don't get sick of it.
There's going to be a lot of hand stitching in this, so the sooner I get serious about it the better. Here's hoping I get most of it done this weekend.
Tonight we're having a family dinner, so no stitching time there: maybe I'll stay up late afterwards doing some of the mindless sewing like tacking the bias strips.
For a quick piecing fix I've been sewing more Big Dipper blocks, only 7 more and I'll  have enough. They are a fun block to piece.

Time to go work in the garden, I have lots of seedlings to plant for my winter veggies.  There are eggplant and capsicum and chili bushes to strip, and then I'll have to get busy cooking to use them all up. 
And you know its my favourite time of the year approaching; the crysanthemums are out in flower, and soon there will be great bunches of flowers all over the house.  I need to get out there and give them all some more soluble fertiliser and make sure the blooms are the best they can be.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The vine takes shape...

I've appliqued the vine in place, which took a couple of hours on Sunday night.  Now I'm onto the leaves, and I think I will make them out of a few different fabrics, just so there is a bit more interest.  It's a very simple pattern, and it will look better with some variations in the colour.  First step was to print out the leaf shapes onto freezer paper;
if I didn't have drafting software I would just make a template and trace it multiple times onto freezer paper.  I'm all about the shortcuts, seeing my sewing time is limited.
Then I cut out the  individual shapes with very sharp scissors,
 and ironed them, shiny side down, to the wrong side of the fabrics I wanted to use.  I cut around them with a good quarter inch seam allowance, pulled the freezer paper templates off and then laid them back on the shape, shiny side up this time.  I then press the seam allowance over the edge of the shape and it sticks to the plastic coating.  I tried a few times to press the seam allowances around the curve at the bottom, but it's a bit fiddly on such a small shape.  
To get round that, I ran a gathering thread in the seam allowance around the curve, ironed the straight edges and point down onto the template, then gathered up the remaining seam allowance.  I held the gathering thread taut while I ironed the gathers down on to the template, and my fingers were well away from the heat of the iron.  It worked beautifully to give me a nice smooth curve, and it only takes 10 seconds to put that gathering thread in there; once it's ironed the thread can just be snipped, and it's onto the next one.

Sweet!  or should I say Smooth!
Next up will be the actual applique, which should go pretty quickly.
This is turning out to be a lot of fun, but I'll be glad when I've got all the borders prepped; then it will just be a matter of taking the time to sit and sew it all.  The preparation is what takes all the time.


A good day out

Our day at the beach was wonderful, it was a glorious autumn day and everything looked special.  I didn't have my good camera with me, and the phone just couldn't capture the quality of light.
Dreary photo; in reality everything looked significant, all the colours of the beach and sea and water were like a perfect colour study.  It was a very uplifting experience to be there, with happy dogs, warm weather and superb food.
These are the best fish and chips in South Australia, I'm sure!  OUr happiness was complete when we discovered a new coffee place had opened up on the shorefront, and the coffee was very nice. Bliss.

We walked a lot further than we normally do, and at the end of the beach found a lot of shells, and many of these bleached crab shells.  They are so weird; if I was inventing a cartoon monster, I wouldn't have to look far for inspiration.
They don't look happy....


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Off to the beach

We're about to set off for the beach, where the dogs will run wildly through the sand and seaweed, and we'll enjoy fish and chips for lunch.  It's a beautiful day, and much as I would love to get some sewing done, I'll appreciate a day with family more.

I made haste to prepare the first border strip, so that when I come home I'll be able to start work on the applique straight away.  I've never done an applique border, so I'm being ultra careful, and what I learn on this first strip will help the others go more smoothly.  I've prepared a length of bias for the vine; Mereth taught me this method of folding a strip into thirds and tacking it together. 

The folded edge is nice and plump, easy to get the needle into.  I have used other methods that iron the bias strip, but that sharp crease at the edge makes it harder to get the needle in the right place.

I drew lines 3" apart on the wrong side of the background strip, then tacked along those lines so I can see them from the right side.  This may be caution overkill, but I don't want any lines visible on the front.  I might do away with this on future strips, but I'm just experimenting so far.

I made a template of the centre of the vine, and marked that on the strip.  This pencil line will be entirely hidden by the bias, so I'm not fussed about that.  I'm using a Karisma ceramic pencil, it's very nice to work with.
Now I'm ready to start stitching that vine into place, but it will have to wait till tonight.  I'm a bit excited about this :)
And look!  I even ironed a rosette like I was supposed to.  I AM being good.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Another hard week at work, and still more stuff to do on the weekend.  I'm so glad we will have time off over Easter, what a luxury that will be.  All the more important to make sure that I'm up-to-date on all my various jobs, so that I can lounge about like a lady of leisure.  Or sew like a crazy quilt lady, one or the other.

There has been no time to make much progress on anything quilt related; however, odd minutes here and there are better than nothing.  I've searched out a fabric that will work for the borders, then ironed it and cut the four strips I need.

 I chose a fabric for the vine; it's been in my stash for about 20 years, and those creases do not want to come out.
I will have to completely wash it I think, and have another go at ironing it.
I went through my UFOs and discovered a tin full of rosettes made from vintage fabric.
Hmm, these would be nice stitching on Friday night, when we watch DVDs with the brother and sister-in-law.
I needed more of the tiny blue diamonds, so I found the fabric without much trouble;
 I dyed this about 15 years ago, so that in itself was a trip down memory lane.  Then I located the templates, cut a few out and sewed them in place.  I enjoyed that bit of handwork; then I decided to give it a bit of a press, and that's when I realised that I hadn't pressed a single seam.  Not on the pieces I'd put together, (though you can see I've now made a start in the bottom right),

and not on any of the 38 rosettes in the tin.

Why do I never press my hexagon projects?  I always end up with a whole quilt top full of contrary seam allowances, it takes the gloss off finishing something if I have to spend 5 or 6 hours persuading hundreds of tiny seams to go where I want them.  So my new rule is, every time I turn the iron on I have to press a rosette.
It should only take me a month or so.....


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

In between other chores today I've been trying out different ideas for the border of the applique quilt.  I want to make a small vine border, and then use some pink fabric as the outer border.  I made a mockup in EQ7, which also let me calculate yardage amounts;

I used the measurements from this to draft up a small vine in my cad software, then printed out a couple of copies to pin to the quilt. (Mereth does all this by hand, using pens and compasses and coloured card, her applique mock-ups are little works of art).
I also used a setting on my phone to convert the photos to black and white, which let me concentrate on the shapes without being distracted by the colours.
 I didn't like that small inner pink border, it was much better to have the vine border against the centre part of the quilt, and the outer pink border as a frame.
 I went back to the drawing board and decided to reverse the little leaves, so that the rounded end was against the vine, and designed a corner motif so that the vine ended behind it, and I won't have to figure out how to get the bias strip going continuously around the whole quilt.
So now I have some idea where I'm going with this, and I can get busy making lengths of bias for the vine, printing out templates for the leaves, and choosing the fabric for the vine background.  The original white fabric is long gone, so I will have to find something that matches, but I'm not too worried about that.  The two fabrics won't ever touch, and the difference between them will be toned down by the setting triangles.

I'm doing this little border mainly because I have two other UFOs that need applique borders, and I want to have a practice with something simple before I tackle anything more complex.  I'm getting very impatient to see this finished, because I will be able to take two things off the UFO list, and I will finally have an applique quilt top to my credit.

Arrgghh!  Now I like the leaves the way I had them the first time!!  Good thing I have plenty of time to decide which way to place them, I have to get all the vines appliqued first.  It will be quite a while before I start on the leaves.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

I was up bright and early this morning, ready to start sewing the blocks together.  It all went without a hitch, but took several hours as I was being very careful.  It would be catastrophic to scorch a block, or make a slip with the rotary  cutter at this late stage.

But my diligence paid off, and the blocks are as square and flat as I could make them.
I love these sunflowers, they are so pretty, and there are many, many antique quilts using these blocks in amazing settings.  Once I get this set of pink and brown ones done I'll start another set.  I used the Marti Michell templates,
and it was very easy to churn out the rings.  Adding the background fabrics is what slowed me down on these.
I see I have still more sets of pieces to sew together...

One of my most favourite ever quilt books is A People and Their Quilts by John Rice Irwin.  If I could only ever have one quilt book, this would be it.  The quilts are beautiful, the stories are wonderful history, and the photos excellent.  No patterns, but I don't need patterns.
 I love this glimpse of a sunflower quilt, held by Mildred Locke. I must track down similar fabrics to make my own version; I can make the sunflower rings while I hunt around to find setting and border fabrics.

I knew I would love A People And Their Quilts when I read these words on the first page;
"I'd druther quilt than to eat on the hungriest day that ever I seen".

At the time I bought this book, very few people I knew quilted, and they regarded it as an amusing hobby.  I thought it was a way of life.  I felt an instant connection to Ethel Hall when I read her words, and I knew Mereth and I weren't alone in loving quilting so much.  The whole book is an affirmation that quilting is so much more than just cutting up fabric and sewing it back together.


Friday, April 04, 2014

What a week, it was just work from sun-up to sun-down.  But I finished the taxes, including this years info, and seeing as my accountant is making me do it monthly from now on, I shouldn't get so behind in future.  Fingers crossed that I manage to stay on top of it now.

I wish I could just leap into the sewing again, but I"m a bit knackered after all that effort, plus the garden has to be tended now, before the colder weather arrives.  It's beautiful weather now, cool at night and very pleasantly warm in the daytime; it's such a blessing after the stinker of a summer we had.  I've got to go through the garden and get rid of the things that didn't make it; it's heartbreaking to rip out rose skeletons, and empty out the pots with the dead bodies of some of my favourite plants.  Oh well, seedlings will be in the shops soon, and I don't think my self-control will be up to the job of limiting the purchases of replacement plants.  Mereth and I always excuse it by telling ourselves that we don't smoke or drink, don't have manicures or even haircuts, (though after the last haircut I gave Mereth, she's been a bit wary of trusting me with the scissors again.  It's never a good thing to say 'Ooops!' while cutting someone's hair....)  We never buy new clothes, preferring to visit the op-shops; if our gardens are our major vice, as least it's a healthy one. 

I've sewn a few more blue and brown blocks, but I've been too tired and distracted to focus on them; my sewing time has been devoted to getting the sunflower blocks finished, so I can get this project into one piece.  I decided to reverse applique the background onto the block, and made a template out of freezer paper.  The centre was cut out allowing a genereous quarter inch seam; I wanted it to cover all the darker fabric beneath once it was appliqued in place. 

Clipping the seam allowance every half inch or so means it's really easy to press the fabric back over the template, resulting in a beautiful clean edge to sew down.  I take the paper out as soon as the edge is pressed, then mark the quarters of the frame piece so I can line it up with the points of the pieced sunflower.
 It's pinned over the block and then basted in place with neat running stitches; much easier to applique than dodging pins.
I've finished two blocks, and the other two are basted in place, so all I have to do is stitch them down.  That will take me an hour at the most, then I will be able to trim all the blocks to a uniform size, and actually start sewing them together.  I'm really thrilled with how it's looking, I can't believe (yet again) that I left this for 20 years.

This rose is called Candlelight, and it's flowering it's little heart out now.  I get such a lot of pleasure out of my roses, I love them all.  At a garage sale this morning I bought a garden swing seat, and I may set it up where I can admire my rose garden.  It will be nice to have a place to rest and contemplate the flowers; they say we should always make time to smell the roses!

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