Tuesday, February 9, 2016

An update on Chester

Since I last wrote about my Chester Criswell quilt 5 week ago, I've managed to make seven blocks. SEVEN! I'm not too sure how that happened as it seems like such a rare thing to have the time to sit on my butt and sew, but being a massive tennis fan probably helped, as did a four week holiday and then yesterday (when I made my seventh block) sitting by a hospital bed.

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Guys, this is Rachel Dickey. Rachel, meet everyone.

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Mary Wilson. This block proved I really need to mark out my appliqué piece placement before I pin the pieces down. That top right red tulip bit was unpicked twice. Single piece blocks are so much easier.

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Jesse Jackson Smith was appliquéd in a night. So fast. Single piece block - see what I mean?

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Lovely Eliza Whiteside with her inability to trace and cut the pattern properly. I love that this block has replicated the original with all its faults. And then I've added some faults of my own (all charming ones of course).

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Adaline Gibson was another quick block - done over two nights. She's my 15th block, and marked the end of the 15 background blocks I'd precut a few years ago. Time to cut some more. Luckily I have a stash of text fabric.

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This was finished during the men's tennis semi final last weekend - Elizabeth Cummins. I love those little hearts, and how it looks like people holding hands. I thought the fabric would give me a headache, but it didn't (this photo does though).

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Elizabeth Crosby, also known as The Deathstar (seriously!) because of this photo:

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After I got back from the hospital last night, I put all 17 blocks on the design wall to decide where to go, along with some prepared blocks. I have also prepared a massive 24 inch block which was made by the bride's mother. It is very intricate and looks very difficult and I worry that such a huge block will detract from the look I have going on here. I will leave it on the design wall a bit longer and have more of a think. I want to make 25 blocks, and this block would mean I wouldn't have to make 4 of them. But then again ... so many curves and corners to be done, and it is kind of intimidating.

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Where to from here? But do I want to hand quilt it? Machine quilt it? Enter it in a quilt show this year? I don't know, but I know I have rediscovered my love for these blocks and I just can't see myself stopping making them for quite a while. Also I'm on carer's leave for the week while my husband recovers from another hip surgery so I'm sure there will be stitching during the napping.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Simplicity 1920 - a (much) repeated pattern for the win

A couple of years ago I muslined up a top from the Simplicity 1920 pattern. It was a disaster, mainly because of the w-i-d-e neckline that left me a wee bit frustrated when it came to making the top sit nicely on my shoulders. Without showing bra strap. Yeah, that.

However towards the end of last year I had a wedding to go to and little time to make a nice top, so I reached for Simplicity 1920 as it was the shape of top I was after. I added about an inch to the neckline, ignored the shoulder/sleeve vents, and made it in red silk.

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It was lovely. I still wear it each week, but making it without the sleeve vents was a massive mistake. I have narrow shoulders and, thanks to swimming every day, guns. I needed that space in my sleeve to allow movement (and gun-flexing).

I wanted to make it again, in linen this time for my long summer staycation.  So I made three.

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I made this one first out of a yellow hanky linen I'd purchased from Addicted to Fabric a couple of years ago. Its my favourite.

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Siobhan and I went to Addicted the day before New Years Eve - her to get buttons and my opinion, and me to pick up a white linen and another nice plain colour that would go with most of my summer skirts.   This olive green is such a gorgeous colour. I made this top on New Year's Eve and wore it out to the movies that night. It gets worn constantly.

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I'm not much of a white fabric fan, but heck - it goes with everything.

In the last week of my staycation I dedicated my sewing to work clothes. So I cracked open the Liberty stash. I'd never sewn with Liberty in my life. I was justifiably nervous.

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This is the "Kussman" print with Icelandic horses. I bought the fabric at Addicted ages ago. I really, really love this top. I've already worn it to work with a black-grey textured skirt and it's not often I get compliments on what I sew but there were compliments. Lots of them.

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And this is Liberty's "Wiltshire Berry" fabric. I bought it at Shinjuku's Okadaya in Tokyo. I always thought it would be perfect with a black skirt, so I made a black skirt too. The fabric is unbelievably pretty.

I'm not sick of this pattern yet at all. I've cut out another two tops for work in the last week, and I made up one during Canberra Sewing Crew social sewing yesterday. I almost finished another, but I made a massive mistake in overlocking the neckline because it was fraying badly, and then slicing into the neck with my overlocker blade. Such a rookie mistake - I was embarassed. So it's sitting in the naughty corner for now until I can work out how to fix it.

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Here's the version I made yesterday. I used a beautiful printed lawn from Tomato in Tokyo. It has toadstools and squirrels and owls and bunnies on it. I will never be too old to wear fabric with those things on them.

Since my red silk version, I've added between 1 and 1 1/2 inches to the neckline, both front and back. It seems to work for me. Weirdly the bust darts are in the right place for me, when normally they are too high. I actually have never followed the pattern instructions for this, so I don't know whether I'm supposed to make the bias for the neckline, or even if there is a bias. But I just use store bought bias binding. It works for me, and for this top.


I've added the line drawing for the pattern here to demonstrate the wide and low neckline. I'd also really like to make that jacket, but without all the shirring on the sleeve and back.

All up, it's a simple but really nice top, and very comfortable to wear. I take my time with making it - doing all the top stitching of the vents and arm holes, and it probably takes less than two hours, including cutting. It's a good, versatile pattern, and definitely a key article when it comes to building a basic wardrobe.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Unblogged: Hot Flush Diamonds

In undertaking the great sort-out of Spring-Summer 2015/16, I've discovered a few unblogged quilts , so I thought I might start a series called The Unblogged. Knowing me, I'll still be blogging the unblogged until 2017, but to show you how dedicated I am, here's the first Unblogged.

Hot Flush Diamonds

It's a monster and it was too big for the clothes line and too heavy for anyone to lift so I cleaned out my closet of skirt hangers and got the ladder out to hang the quilt on the tallest gutters of my house. Oh, and it's 36 degrees celcius outside and SCORCHING. You're welcome.

I started this quilt at a Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably workshop almost 5 years ago.  Good Lord. I finished it last summer, I think. I only say that because I really can't remember, but I do remember suffocating under this huge quilt last summer, so perhaps.

Hot Flush Diamonds

I didn't have much of a clue when I was putting this together. I followed the pattern for Cool Diamonds (from the book "Kaleidoscope of Quilts") to a tee, which meant the quilt size was much bigger than was practical. We have a low queen sized bed, and this quilt is really more a king sized or bedspread size. It's so long it hangs to the floor, and I can tuck my pillows underneath it. Not the most practical size, and also very heavy. So this quilt doesn't get used too often, but it really is very pretty to look at.

Hot Flush Diamonds

Raylee from Sunflower Quilting quilted it in an orange Rasant Thread and I really like it. I didn't want the quilting to blend in, and I wanted it to acknowledge the amount of orange that had crept into the quilt.

Hot Flush Diamonds

I backed it with Martha Negley bamboo print and some spare Kaffe from the binding fabric.

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I called it Hot Flush Diamonds because in the book there is a Cool Diamonds pattern, and a Hot Diamonds pattern. I'm pretty sure they are identical except for the colours used. I started out with a cool green quilt but it was bland, so we added orange and suddenly it wasn't such a cool quilt anymore. There were definite temperature spikes in there. Hot Flush. Enough said.




Tuesday, January 5, 2016

We need to talk about Chester

Sharon from Two Bits Patches, the creator of the Chester Criswell Block of the Month that I started three years ago, has decided to start sending emails once a week to reinvigorate those of us (*cough* like me *cough*) who had fallen by the wayside. It was the gentle kick up the butt I needed. I mean, there's only so much needle turn appliqué a lady can do before she goes stark raving mad! No wonder I'm so slow (I'm intensely insane already).

Chester Criswell is a very traditional signature album quilt - originally made in turkey red and green back in 1852 in Pennsylvania. I'm a traditional kind of quilter, but I'm not one for the traditional colour palettes so I've been doing mine in bright modern fabrics, on a text (or course) low-ish value background.

I've had the nine blocks I thought I'd made so far up on the design wall the last few weeks (and then today I found a tenth!! Oh Reuben Stubbs - you always were trouble) so I thought I'd finally document them and put them up here on the blog for posterity and fact checking (this is how I found the tenth block, actually. He was on the blog a few weeks ago. I knew Reuben wasn't a figment of my imagination!)

1. Jane Wilson
1. Jane Wilson

2. Elizabeth Cowan
2. Elizabeth Cowan (done using a different technique with "wash out" stabiliser. I hated the technique, and it didn't wash out at all. I would love to do this one again one day.)

3. Priscilla and Joseph Turner
3. Priscilla and Joseph Turner (again, done with the dodgy technique described above before I realised the evil stuff wouldn't wash out (and hence why the grey fabric has gone crinkly)).

4. Nancy and James R Smith
4. Nancy and James R. Smith

5. James Carlile
5. James Carlile

6. Reuben Stubbs
6. Reuben Stubbs 

7. William and Harry Clendenon
7. William and Harry Clendenon

21. Mary Trayner
21. Mary Trayner (this is when I took the blocks back up after more than a year's break and decided to start working backwards. Didn't last long.)

23. Mary Watkins
23. Mary Watkins

25. Sarah Stubbs
25. Sarah Stubbs

It's a wet and cool day in Canberra today so I've spent this morning at the pool (naturally) and this afternoon avoiding the mess in the kitchen and prepping block 10 Rachel Dickie. Once I deal with the mess in the kitchen, it'll be leftovers for dinner, a nice gin and tonic, The Flash on DVD and Rachel and me.

Rachel Dickie in progress

I really love holidays!

Anyone interested in a tutorial on how I prepare my freezer paper appliqué? Or are you all down with that already?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy Handmade Christmas

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The spirit of Christmas didn't clobber me over the head until the week I finished work - the week before Christmas. I don't have many people to buy presents for - a few friends, and a small family. I refused to go overboard this year - in embracing my new aspiring-to-be-a-minimalist lifestyle, I don't see why anyone else wants plastic junk either. I certainly don't want to buy it.

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I wasn't anticipating making anything by hand for gifts. But I do like to sew for stress relief, and there was a pattern I'd been itching to try from Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts, so I got to cutting and sewing the night before my last day ... and then the next thing I knew I had six quilted coasters for a little Christmas gift for each of my workmates.

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I used a lot of my stash of independent screen printed fabrics - Ink and Spindle, Auntie Cookie, Publisher Textiles to name a few - and also cotton batting scraps that I'd been hoarding for a project just like this. I think they came up really nicely! I enjoyed sewing them a lot more than I thought I would - I would even get up early before swimming laps to quilt a couple, and then hop on my bike to the pool.

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I ended up making six different sets, and everyone who received a set (or a single) told me how nice they are. They didn't take long to make - once the fabric and batting was cut it took about an hour or so to sew up a set of 6. I still haven't made any for us at home - but I'm working on that.

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My nephews are ages 9, 5 and 3 and I really wanted to make them something useful. They get so spoiled at Christmas with toys from Santa and the grandparents that it made me think I'd be a little more comfortable if Aunty Michelle could make them something ... that wasn't Lego (don't worry - in case you think I was sucking the joy of Christmas for my sweet nephews, they got a little Lego too. Next year - probably not. Sorry kids.)

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I sewed the two older nephews a colour coordinated pencil roll each - again the pattern was from Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. Cutting all those little fabrics strips was a total pain in the arse. But sewing it together was a blast - I had a lot of fun constructing it. The fabric was all stash fabric, and even the grosgrain ribbon ties were from the big box of trims I had from my Blythe sewing days. The only thing I had to buy was the set of pencils.

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For the three-year-old I made a crayon roll. I loosely followed this tutorial from Skip to My Lou, however I adapted the measurements for a pack of 12 crayons, and constructed and quilted it like I did with the pencil rolls up above (one continuous line of quilting).

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My one mistake was not making the roll wider to allow for chunkier crayons. In the end I had allowed for 1 inch pockets, but really they needed to be closer to 1 1/4 inches. The crayons are a little bit too squeezy for my liking, but my sister-in-law reckons they'll be good for his fine motor skills, so what would I know?

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Apparently the gifts were well received and a great idea for the days that the boys have to join mum in the office. The nine-year-old is a little cartoonist in the making so I hope he enjoys using the roll.

Christmas 2012

This is a stock photo from 2012! For years now I have been making several batches of granola to give as gifts - head to the two dollar shop to get some nice jars and fill them up, add a bit of garden twine and a packing label listing what's in it, and it's the perfect edible Christmas gift! I used to make Christmas cakes, but granola is better for you, and the oven doesn't have to be on for as long to bake it.

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And finally, what's Christmas without a new Christmas frock? Well, no Christmas frock was made this year, sadly, but I did spend a little time on Christmas morning taking up the hem of my first ever Simplicity 2929 by 7 inches to wear at Christmas lunch at our friends'. It was a warm day so this voile dress was perfect, and those big roses make it feel very Christmassy indeed!

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Finally, I hope every here had a lovely Christmas Day, no matter how you spent it or who you spent it with. I really missed seeing my family this year but travel was out of the question so we made do, and friends came to the rescue, and thank heavens for Australia Post getting the presents to everyone on time!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Another quilt for Susan

This is the quilt that Julie and I made for our friend Susan for her birthday.

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We made a scrappy quilt using the Cheyenne block - with newsprint fabric for the "low value" (really not that low value at all) because Susan's late dad was in the Canberra press gallery.

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I finished the top with 20 minutes to spare before her party in September. We gave her the quilt top, and then grabbed it back off her as we left. My back wasn't playing fair and I had planned to quilt it myself. Julie helped with the basting (thank heavens) and then finally I had a window of painfree-ness a couple of weeks ago where I could quilt it. Just 720 inches at a time before resting, but within a few days it was done. Julie sewed the binding on using the Ella Blue Basics place names fabric in white and black, and it was ready to give back to Susan. Only 3 months late, but better late that never.

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I quilted straight lines 1/2 inch from each seam to give a grid effect. It's quite a simple way of quilting, but anything other than straight lines would have ruined the different patterns that this block gives you in this quilt. I used Aurifil 50/2 weight in colour 1135 (yellow) and it turned out really well in a quilt that gives a bit of a yellow vibe (for a scrappy quilt). Also I'm on the whole "using what I have in the stash" bandwagon at the moment and I have a lot of this yellow Aurifil laying around. It's the perfect sunny colour for a very happy quilt.

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We got pretty cheeky with the backing - I had a few metres of firemen fabric that I bought for a few dollars a metre at a quilt shop sale a few years ago. Again with the stash. We also used 100% cotton batting. I'm such a fan of cotton batting for home quilting - it sticks to the fabric so the pinning isn't as important, and it gives a really nice finish to the quilt after you wash it. I washed Susan's quilt before we gave it to her so it has an immediate snuggle factor.

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It's not the first quilt I've made Susan, but the first I've made with another friend. It was a lot of fun getting together over a few weekends, sewing, trimming, sorting and joining. In the mad sorting out I've been doing over the last few months, I discovered another quilt I made to give to a friend over 2 years ago, but never quilted. I have a few more weeks of leave from work, and that's definitely on the list to finish.