Friday, June 29, 2007

This is Darling Harbour, early on a cold winter morning, on the first day of the quilt show. I'm enjoying the colder weather so far.

The first three days of the show have flown by, and we have been busy. We met up with lots of friends that we see only at these events, so there was a lot to catch up on. Then there is the shopping and looking at the quilts themselves, and coffee with more friends.

We were sitting with 9 of our mates when someone tapped Mereth on the shoulder and said ‘Would you be Mereth or Keryn?’ It was ChookyBlue, who is a blogfriend that we have never met before, so we had a big chat and arranged to meet the next day and spend time together. Our other friends were suitably freaked out that a total stranger had recognised us and introduced herself. Which is really odd, seeing we all met on an email list about 7 years ago!

This afternoon our friends Laurie and Brenda took us out to the famous Patchwork Products in Rydalmere. This shop is set up in a garage behind a normal suburban house, and has fantastic fabric deals. There is a big ginger tabby cat to welcome the shoppers, and floor to ceiling stacks of delicious fabrics. We always have a lovely time rummaging through everything and choosing armfuls of material, for about half the amount it would normally cost. We were quite restrained this time, but it’s still a decent haul. Brenda thinks it’s so amusing to watch us country kids go crazy in the candy store.

On the way back to the convention centre we stopped at QuiltSmith, another lovely shop, jam-packed with the sort of reproduction fabrics that are our favourite. OMG! We could have spent hours there, it was so wonderful. Even Brenda was tempted to buy a morsel or two. We were delivered back to the hotel in a very happy mood.

My purchases today included a wonderful book about Chinese artifacts, that was being thown out for $4.95. The images in it are amazing, and I would love to interpret some of them in fabric. It sounds silly, but the idea of cutting my fabric up holus-bolus into strange shaped pieces has stopped me from ever attempting a pictorial quilt. I need to loosen up my attitude and take the scissors to the cloth and just do it. Maybe this is the year to try out new styles and techniques and expand my skills.

While I’m working the Statler it’s interesting to hear the comments as people go past. I often hear “That’s cheating!”, to which I reply, ‘No, that’s Evolution” I’m sure our great-grandmothers would have been truly fascinated to see where quilting has gone in the last hundred years. There are lots of teenagers attending the show on school excursions, and even the boys are amazed at the computerised machines. These kids are the ones who will carry on our craft, and I just wonder where it will go in their hands.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Some projects just seem to snowball, and end up much more complicated than they were at the start. Kaye's quilt, nicknamed The Big Brown Bugger, is such a project. It started as a pile of pieces that Mereth could sew together to keep her occupied. Along the way we did the Maths and realised that the tiny bundle of squares and triangles would end up measuring 82" when pieced together. Then there were the borders, another 20". It's HUGE!

Kaye asked me to choose a panto to put over it, and I, being temporarily insane, decided to design something specially for the quilt. I spent a day playing, starting off with a scrap of fabric that featured a stylised pomegranete. Somehow a bird holding a berry in his beak crept into the design, and then his ladylove on a nest. I joked that the birds were Bruce and Kaye, and the pomegranete a symbol of fertility, and the ribald jokes began. Honestly! It doesn't bear repeating. It all just snowballed out of control.

The photo is of the design being stitched out as a test run, and then I decided what worked and what didn't. I redrew what I thought didn't work, and the quilt was loaded onto the biggest machine and quilted in two long sessions.

Then this morning a team of helpers went to work applying the binding and hand stitching it down. The photo is Mereth, Dale and I stitching on a side each; it took a surprisingly short time to stitch down 408" of binding. Many hands make light work. Then the quilt was hung for a picture shoot, and whisked off into the truck to go off to the Sydney show.

We will be leaving in a few hours time, and blogging will resume when we get sorted out at the hotel.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Much sewing was done today, and the king-size quilt top is nearly finished. I have been running around cutting pieces and making coffee, pressing seams, fetching and carrying for Mereth, while she stitches steadily away and reduces the pile of pieces by the machine. She's quite bossy too, but I'm letting her get away with it because she's doing such a great job. This quilt is due to go on the machine tomorrow, not that there's any pressure on us or anything! It will be quilted with an ornate panto and hung in the booth at the show.

We ran off to the LQS to get more fabric for the setting squares, and I bought a few FQs and two remnants that Mereth was kind enough to point out to me. We are waiting till we get to the show before we do any serious shopping, there will be lots to choose from and we don't want to exhaust our finances too soon. We have been there, and done that!

This is the quilt that is on my bed here, and I am so in love with it that I want to start my own version straight away. This is a copy of an antique quilt, and Kaye chose all the fabrics herself; they look so beautiful together. The fabrics are divine, and I have lots of them already, so I could shop the stash for this one. I don't have anything remotely like the pillar print in the border, I will have to look out for something equally striking.


Friday, June 22, 2007

We are happily installed in the workshop at Camden, surrounded by Statlers and sewing machines and quilts piled head high on the tables. I am digitising patterns, and Mereth has finished piecing 56 blocks for a quilt for our hostess Kaye. I have to admit that I am impressed by Mereth's piecing speed; everytime I look over there are another 4 or 5 blocks finished. She's like Lightning! And sooo organised. All I have to do is keep the coffee coming.....

It's freezing cold, which I haven't got sick of yet, and raining quite steadily. The last time I was here the country was burnt brown, and now it's much greener and flourishing and the smaller dams are full. Everyone is very thankful, but we still need lots more rain.

Kaye subscribes to several reproduction fabric clubs, and we are filled with envy over her stash. It's the stuff of dreams, what we all aspire to. And she actually makes quilts and finishes them, along with all the quilting she does for other people. I want to be like her when I grow up! The place is buzzing with activity as the preparations for the Sydney show get underway, and there are several quilts a day rolling off the two Statlers.

The only place where we can get mobile phone coverage here is up the hill in the tiny colonial era cemetary. We walk briskly up there each afternoon to check in with the outside world, and spend a few minutes reading the headstones and admiring the carved flowers and inscriptions. It's very meditative.

DD brought back the Harry Potter books, so I will be reading them in preparation for the release of the 7th and final instalment. Like Tonya's DH I read those books continuously, almost compulsively.... Whenever I go to the gym, Harry goes with me. I credit my new fitness entirely to him and his adventures, because I won't allow myself to read unless I'm at the gym or home on the treadmill. And I just love to read, so I gotta exercise. DD also prepaid for my copy of the new Harry Potter, as a birthday present, which was sweet of her. Especially as I prepaid her copy as HER birthday present. Bit silly, but it's the thought that counts.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

I should never announce my plans for the weekend, because then I never achieve what I wanted to do. It's a fact of life. The quilt I wanted to work on is still in pieces on the design wall, because of an unexpected visit from my DD. She lives in a little town about 3 hours away, and it's much colder there, so she came into town to stock up on winter clothes. She makes me laugh, she can stretch a dollar further than me when it comes to clothes shopping. She has a talent for bargain finding. It's a gift that she likes to cultivate.

She went through my pile of quilts and chose 4 to take home with her, including this one, shown on the Statler being quilted a few years ago. It's foundation pieced and is much the same as my Irish Star, just tweaked a little to give stars instead of spirals. Even though it was quilted so long ago it still didn't have a binding, so that's what I had to do today. It's another mammoth quilt, I must have been insane to make quilts that big. I think I've learnt my lesson for a while.

After the quilt was bound we made 3 sets of curtains for her flat. It warmed my heart to see her sewing with such concentration and care. She has never been one to do anything slowly. She once ran right through a glass door, and she was going so fast that only her heel was cut as the glass fell like a curtain behind her!

Her first attempt at machine sewing was when she was 7, while I was away at a retreat. It resulted in her stitching right through her finger and a trip to the X-ray department to track down the bits of broken needle. She told me all this breathlessly, with great enjoyment, when I rang to see if they missed me. I could hear DH in the background hissing 'Don't tell her that!!!' And he said the same thing when she informed me that they had had a bag of chips for dinner....

There were various incidents with other sewing projects, all done at a million miles an hour. She was allowed to sew on my old Bernina, but hated it because she leans way too close to the machine, and the bit that carries the thread and goes up and down used to smack her on the head. My Janome 7000 has this bit enclosed, so I gave it to her to take home. Along with many instructions on the care and feeding of my beloved machine. We will wait to see if she turns into a quilter......

I would post a photo of her, but she was horrified the last time I did that, so I'd better not freak her out again. But how dumb of me not to take a photo of the newly bound quilt, because I've just discovered that I don't have any of it except the one shown. I am going out to visit her in August, so I will make sure I photograph it then.


Friday, June 15, 2007

In lieu of a real post....
7 things you probably don't know about me:

1. I have an Associate Diploma of Animal Husbandry. I can weld and have a tractor license. I was electrocuted in a piggery, but lived to tell the tale with only a half inch hole burnt in my hand.Me and a friend, circa 1983

2. I have been riding bikes since I was 15. I started out with my brother's Honda 70, went to a 125, then a Yamaha RD250 and finally a Honda400. I would love to own a Moto Guzzi one day, before I get too old to enjoy being a larrikin.

3. I was in the RAAF, (Royal Australian Air Force), as was my father and father-in-law.

4. Until I was 23 I could do a handstand and put my toes on my nose. The last time I did it as a party trick, and thought that maybe I shouldn't.......not being a 12 year old gymnast anymore. And I was decently clothed in jeans and all, it's not like I'd do it in a dress or anything!

5. I don't like ice-cream, and I'm not over fussed on chocolate either, unless it's dark and 70% cocoa. Give me curry, or antipasto any day. Believe me, plenty of things are giving me curry lately!

6. My reading speed is 460 words a minute, with 100% comprehension. I was tested in the Air Force. I love those IQ and skill tests, I'm very good at them. Pity I couldn't make a living just taking the tests....

7. When I was 18 I broke my coccyx falling off a horse , and had to get back on and ride 7 miles home. Ouch!! Thank God for Western saddles, with pommels and knee-pads. The worst thing was waiting at the traffic lights on the way through town; not nice to be riding a horse in traffic when you're not completely in control.

Normal blogging will resume on the weekend, when I finish the quilt that is in pieces on the design wall. It has been made in the moments between stoking the copier with paper and collating packs for orders before I go away. I'm amazed that I have managed to get so much done in such a scattered way. I much prefer to sew uninterrupted, but that won't be happening for quite a while.


Friday, June 08, 2007

I have been trying to update my website with a tutorial on how I pin-baste quilts on the kitchen table, but it is taking forever so I will do it as a blog entry and let you know when it's available on my website as a .pdf. I made a special effort last week to baste my Roman Stripe quilt, but I haven't been able to take a single stitch so far, which is frustrating. Maybe this weekend will see some quilting being done.

First step is to mark the centre of each side of the table with a toothpick taped in place. This helps keep all the layers centred, so there are no nasty surprises like running out of backing or batting when you shift the quilt
Next step is to remove the cats from the backing!I fold the backing into quarters with the right side out, so that I can lay it on the table with the folds lined up with the toothpicks. When it's unfolded it is already centred on the table.
The backing is clamped in place with bulldog clips; don't know what they are called in America. Make sure they are easy to open with one hand; you don't want to have to use both hands to get them open, because then you can't control the quilt layers.
I clamp each side with three or four clamps; I like to control that backing. It shouldn't be stretched tight, just held firmly and without any distortion. If the quilt is small, and doesn't reach all the way to the edge I tape any edges to the table with wide packing tape.

The batting is folded into quarters and positioned over the backing, lining up with the toothpicks too. You will be able to feel them, even if you can't see them. Then the same thing happens with the quilt top.
Most people I know leave it at this stage and start pinning, but that's asking for pleats and puckers.I place a clamp on one side, over all three layers. Then I take one clamp off the backing and replace it on top, over all three layers. I work my way round the table clamping every side the same way; stabilise with one clamp on top, then bring all the clamps up from underneath. This way the backing is never left to do it's own thing and create a problem pleat. The top is held in place, and you can take your time pinning, secure in the knowledge that none of those layers are going anywhere.

It makes my heart glad to see a quilt at this stage. The fun part is not far away.
Remove any cats that have migrated back onto the table.
I like to pin to a pattern. Once I have decided to place 8 pins per block there are no more decisions to make, and I can just go full steam ahead, placing the pins but not doing them up yet. I leave that until all the pins are in place, then go back and do them all up at once, using a Kwik-Clip tool. It's wonderful. The bowl of a teaspoon or a crochet hook also works to pry the point of the pin off the quilt while you close it, but I love my Kwik-Clip. It's very kind to the fingers. I place pins so that I can't put my fist on the quilt anywhere without touching a pin.

When you have pinned everything you can see on the table it's time to shift the layers. I position the quilt sandwich so that I will be able to catch the edge of the top in the clamps at the side of the table, which helps tension the top slightly as you pin. Once you have it in the right place, place clamps on the other side of the table to hold the quilt steady.

The most important thing is to separate the layers at this stage, so you can make sure that the backing is pulled out flat and firm. That's the only trick. Clamp the backing, lay over the batting and the top and repeat the clamping process again, one clamp to hold everything, then gradualy shift all the clamps.
See how the edge of the top is caught in the clamps at the sides?

Two hours later, and the quilt is ready to be quilted. And I did it without hurting my back or my knees or my patience. I know I have a big table, but I usually pin on a table that is 3' x 4'. I have to shift the quilt several times, but so long as I make sure those layers are in the right place then there isn't a problem.

One thing does amaze me. People in machine quilting classes often complain that their quilts have puckers and pleats on the back and mine don't. They want to know my 'secret'. When I tell them this process they are horrified! That's so much work! Well it's not really, and the results are worth it.

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