Friday, 19 May 2017

Three weeks stitching in one day!

Ahhh... here in the subtropics, we are entering the dry season. The weather is cooler, we are enjoying wearing slippers on occasion, three quarter sleeves, or a cardigan, or long boots,  or maybe even jeans.

Totally unexpected was the steady rainfall we had yesterday, and again today. It's stopped at about 3pm today, and is unlikely to hang around.

I was lucky enough to make the most of it! My sweetheart took Bub out for a visit this morning, after the school dropoff, and I got to sit at the kitchen table with the sewing machine... I used the kitchen bench as a cutting mat, and even rested fabric on the stove top.

Earlier this week I calculated machine stitching for twinkly bits of Diamond Hill would take 5 months if I only made about 20 squares each week at social stitching. Yesterday while it rained and we stayed home, unable to work in the garden or the yard, and leaving the washing undone (it wouldn't dry anyway), another 20 squares were stitched.

Today I made another 34.

While Bub toddled around the kitchen, he did some drawings, and happily swapped his textas for more out of his big sister's pencilcase. He was so engrossed, I got to sew some more!

Having almost used up the 1 metre of dark purple purchased this week, I felt my mood shift, and it was time to think about basket fabrics for the applique blocks.

I liked these purples, but when I compared a photo of these (for perspective)

with a photo of these, I preferred the brights.

Then I tried to measure the actual width of the stripes so that I could rotary cut them. They need to match exactly with half square triangles in the border of the block. Ergh. They didn't have a measurement I could read on my rulers. I decided not to use the lovely brights in stripes after all.

I will use a triangle of fabric for the basket. I had a little rummage around - I need enough fabric for 8 of these baskets as there are 4 in the outermost border also. I have a lot of Kaffe fat quarters, but they wouldn't have been big enough. Hmm. What about this?

The colours are fabulous. It keeps up with the theme of Amethyst, Emeralds, Pearls in Diamond Hill... but the fabric might be too distracting.

Wait for it... That's much better when it's divided by twinkles.

I will give it a go.

I cut a large 9 inch square and cut it in half once so that I would have the grain running with the edge of the block. Then I drew on a stitching line 1/4 inch from the edge and tried to line it up with the (vague) markings I had made on the oversized applique block.

Machine stitched on, I started to trim the block, lining up the 45 degree line on a large square ruler with the basket, then I got cold feet.What if I was cutting it too small? How could I really check? The block is trimmed to the unfinished size of 18 1/2in square, and I wanted to align the basket in the right place to match up with the pieced twinkles around the edge.

I stuck pieces of baking paper together to make a transparent template. Positioned the basket over the basket line, then trimmed the block. Phew. I could see how far away the applique was from each edge, and I wasn't cutting off too much in any particular direction.

Okay, now that I've trimmed the block it's not all straight grain on the edges anymore, and I am supposed to add some pieced twinkle blocks before storing it (the edges can stretch so they need minimal handling).

I joined some of the twinkle blocks together, and stitched them along two sides.

I am using three different fairy frost fabrics to create the twinkles. Hopefully this will create movement across the quilt as the diamonds shine away with their pearly finish.

Feeling totally chuffed, I managed to sew about 3 weeks of social classes worth today.

Let's see: 34 foundation pieced blocks trimmed, one block trimmed and partially bordered. Strategies in place to tackle tricky bits. Yes, I'd count that as one super successful day, just because it rained!

Next: I think I will make more twinkly squares, as most of the ones made so far are with the pearly fabrics I am using least. Then I will get the other applique blocks bordered by the same amount before matching up the next bits. I need to do these while I remember!

Linking up to Whoop Whoop and My Quilting Infatuation.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

A week ahead?

Yesterday I was thinking about the three hundred and eighty something square in a square blocks to make for the Diamond Hill quilt, having made 21 in one social sewing class for the week, which left about 360 remaining to be made.

I figured at that rate, if I only machine stitched at quilt group once a week, it would take about 5 months to stitch them all.

And thank you to Plum, and a few others who commented. Yes, I am ready to embrace the slow stitching journey. So what if it takes longer than I initially thought it would. (Yes, I was hoping that a month or so after the 7th - final - instruction was issued the quilt top would be completed).

As often happens when we surrender, somehow I found myself with 2 hours extra today to machine sew.

This happened. Rain, rain, rain. Lots of it.

And a sick daughter at school that needed picking up. "Tick, tick, tick" went my brain. Hmm... sick daughter, no swimming lessons for them this afternoon.... an extra 2 hours at home for me! It's raining, Daddy won't be working in the yard or the garden...

So while Daddy went off to early school pickup, and bub was in bed after wearing himself out at his swimming lessons this morning, I set up the sewing machine. Yippee!

Before I knew it, I had been at the machine for about 2 hours. Eep. Sewing in the kitchen, I had to quickly pack everything away off the dinner preparation area, and the dining table. Quick home made chicken noodle soup. I was sorted!

Another 20 blocks made! I kind of feel like I am now a week ahead.

If I made 20 blocks in 2 hours at home, should I up my goals to 30 in the next sewing class, now that I know what I am doing? Calm down Lorraine. Steady, steady, steady. I guess I am just excited.

I need 32 twinkly square in a square blocks towards the border of one applique centre block. Effectively, I have made 41 out of 128 centre twinkles, and then I need 96 for the next inner border.

41 out of 128 is about a third of them made for the next section. Ah, that sounds much more achievable. Slowly, slowly, setting goals, reaching them, and dividing the large project into smaller chunks. This is how we do it.

41 square in a squares made. One and a half bobbins of thread used.

It will be interesting to see how much dark purple background fabric I will actually need. So far I bought an initial 1 metre for the applique blocks, then another 1 metre to start the square in a squares and next border. There is a bit of wastage with foundation piecing, but generally the pieced blocks are looking good so far.

I've only had these instructions for three days. I hope I feel just as excited next time I've got these out to work on.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

What will future quilt historians think?

I am up to machine stitching some blocks which will frame the applique centre blocks of Diamond Hill and create borders. I could hardly go to sleep last night, visions of what I would need to take to Sewing Group today were drifting in and out of consciousness.

As it turns out, I took far too much with me to get done in only a few hours (no time to audition fabrics for baskets, or join blocks to even border one applique block!)

Here is the first "diamond" or "square in a square".


This is 21 finished blocks. Erm. That means another three hundred and sixty something to go. Yes. About another 360 to go.

I was hoping to have these done just in sewing classes over the next 4 weeks. Now, I am not so sure. Maybe I'll have to keep machine stitching these each week at the shop until just before I put the entire quilt together. And evening when toddler is in bed might just be the only time for preparing and stitching applique down. Somehow I need to speed it up, or it will take nearly 5 months just to make these blocks!

Think, brain, think! What can I do to find an extra 2 hours machine sewing at home each week? (That includes setting up the machine, pulling everything out.. hmm...)...

I decided to use three different cream-ish fairy frost fabrics for the diamonds. This should give movement across the entire quilt.

These fabric choices (fairy frost and grunge) had me thinking in a funny kind of way about how much I've enjoyed studying quilt history. I've looked at the fabrics used in different eras, why they used them (availability of colour fastness etc), the patterns that were popular (new kits and patterns in almanacs), the fashion of red and green quilts in the 1840s and 1850s through to the small prints of flour sack quilts in the 1930s....

and I thought about what I've been using lately: Grunge, Fairy Frost, Kaffe, Tula Pink, shot cottons.

Will future quilt historians be looking at the huge number of identical quilts made when a magazine puts out a free BOM pattern and hundreds of people sign up with quilt shops for identical fabric kits? What differences will there be?

Will there be a sudden surge in the popularity of particular types of English paper piecing after the glue sticks that can be unstuck became widely known?

Will there be a whole lot of quilts with markings that could never be removed, or markings that keep appearing as we tried out fadeaway and iron away products?

Will collectors find a huge surge in applique quilts as so many new and easy techniques were shared all over the globe on youtube, so you could see the latest fashions in techniques even if you couldn't get to Houston or AQC in Melbourne?

Did batiks suddenly become more popular? Does the finished quilt reflect that they were purchased as 5 inch or 10 inch squares? Will there he a huge surgence in jelly roll quilts for quilt historians to look at, or will they be the "utility" quilts that show the most wear in their antiquity, as they were used for everyday, rather than hung on a wall or on a bed in the spare room.

I had a giggle at the huge twists and turns in my own personal quilting journey (complete list with links to lots of (but not all) finished projects down the side of the blog). At the moment I am interested in very modern, maverick and unique pieces for myself.

And in between bursts of intense creativity choosing fabric and making our own unique changes, it's nice to follow a pattern written by someone else. Thank you Esther, for the free Diamond Hill BOM pattern.

I wonder how many different versions of Diamond Hill will be made and catalogued by future Quilt Historians that aren't even into a smidgeon of existence yet...

For now, I have 21 blocks that need foundation papers removed....

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Fabric, patterns, techniques in abundance!

My brain is about to spill over the brim! So much creative love is inside, and bubbling away.

I've been hand stitching down all the pieces shown on the previous Secret Garden post, and haven't prepared any extra pieces to show. Just a few leaves left to stitch down. Then more to turn the seam under.

Yesterday is the day I've been waiting for! The fifth installment in Esther's free BOM pattern for Diamond Hill was released.  Yesterday I bought some extra fabric, and today I have been drooling over exact colour placements for piecing the next parts. There will be some paper foundation piecing, some English paper piecing, and some applique!! Lots and lots to do.

English paper piecing printed onto heavy card

I think I've decided to do the diamonds in a couple of shades of pearly creams and golds (the colour themes for my version of the quilt are Amethyst, Emerald and now Pearl), keeping the background the same dark purple.

Four corners in English paper piecing

The baskets will be one large piece of fabric. I haven't quite decided on which fabric yet. Perhaps the shop tomorrow will have something to inspire me. In any case, I have plenty to go on with (all those twinkly diamond bits!) until I absolutely need to decide.

22 pages of instructions!!

I've had the pieces printed out at Officeworks. The foundation piecing parts printed onto a lighter weight fabric to make it easier to tear away (I wonder if I will wet the paper first too... that might be less damaging on the stitching). I don't usually stitch through paper, but trace onto a prewashed, preironed, preshrunk vilene and leave it in. But this is an experimental project, and I am keen to try something different.

44 pages printed with these diamonds on lighter paper as a foundation 

Tomorrow at Sewcial group I plan to start the foundation piecing by machine. I think all the sewing machine work will be done in my weekly sessions at the LQS (young man is just too interested in everything these days). I wonder how many times it will take to finish all the twinkly pieces.

My head is full of things to remember to take: Crisp spray starch, sewing machine, extra needles, oil, ruler bag, fabrics, printed patterns, the blocks... actually, this list is helping to empty my head a little bit.

And also in the last few days I have been absolutely awestruck by these gorgeous fabrics coming out by Tokyo Milk "Neptune and the Mermaids". I will absolutely NEED to get some.


Oh my!

Can you believe it!


Dear Santa,

 a fat quarter pack would probably do me,

 as I foresee some sort of rustic make it up as you go kind of piece arising without a particular

apart from enjoying the fabric, and letting it sing.

And I think that's what some fabric truly deserves.

 Maverick piecing and some chunky hand quilting in perle thread.

Happy sigh.

Happy quilty dreams to you all....

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Lots to see

Somehow I've misplaced the stitchery blocks and hoop that were in a little "go bag" to take here and there. Maybe they blew out of the car door when it opened, or maybe a certain little toddler stashed it somewhere. No doubt it will turn up.

It is getting harder to keep things out of Master 19 months' reach... there is a little story that goes something like this... a clever toddler climbed up onto a chair to reach a box of mini cupcakes, and ate 3 of them really, really fast while Daddy was in the loo. Of course, then he didn't want to eat his dinner... and as if by magic, even with all that sugar in his system, he went to sleep 2 hours early! "That's a magic baby, going to sleep with all that sugar in him" said his 7yo older brother. Heehee. Too sweet. Littlest boy is a bit under the weather, and probably wouldn't have eaten his dinner anyway.

And here he is... helping Mummy to take photos of the four Diamond Hill blocks stitched so far.

Don't put your feet on Mummy's sewing please!

These are ready for basket fabric and pieced sashings when the next part of Esther's free pattern is released in a few days.

I had planned to buy another embroidery hoop at Sewcial group (I just made that up, hahahahha, what a strange word!), but they had none left in the size I wanted, and I didn't feel like paying $20 for a hoop that was the wrong size.

What to do? Of course, start the next Secret Garden block (even though I hadn't finished the embroidery embellishments on the 3rd one.....ooooooh).

A few leaves, and a teapot, which is my variation to Esther's pattern, keeping to the Wonderland theme.

Then I started the large flower last night. And today I've basted a few things together onto the background, ready for stitching at swimming tonight.

Time to relax and stitch.. soon I hope!

Linking up to Esther's Working on Wednesdays.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Progress is starting to show

And so it goes that Diamond Hill block 4 is complete! Hurrah!

applique stitched down - time to make basket fabric auditions

I finished stitching it yesterday for Slow Sunday Stitching. It's not really that slow, as there is not anywhere near as much stitching and preparation to do as there is on these Secret Garden blocks.

The next instructions for DH are issued in a week, and I am guessing that it will be cutting and machine piecing together the first four blocks to make the quilt centre.

All I have left to do is one little circle on block 2. I took it out the other night, but I thought I'd made it too small. When I went to remake it tonight, I couldn't see where I had put the fabric I wanted to use. Well then! Next task! It will turn up, or I will look again in daylight and see that the circle I appliqued is actually fine.

This morning I tried to print out block 4 of Secret Garden on my home printer. I bought an inkjet printer late last year, so it's fairly new. And I've already purchased all the inks again in the last month (over $100), and still the black ink won't work. That's it, I've googled and searched and read all the nonsense. For all the time and muddling around I could have bought a laser printer for printing black only, for about $59, and the toner is only about $60. It prints around 700 sheets. That turns out to be about 8 cents a page, plus the cost of the paper. So it's actually cheaper to go to Officeworks to print the pages out at 8 cents a page including paper. It's just the petrol to get there. In the end, it's probably cheaper to have a printer at home, and more convenient.

adapting Esther's pattern

For the moment, I will go to Officeworks every 2 weeks as Esther's new applique patterns are released, and when our spacious new home is built next year I will have plenty of room to maintain a laser printer.

This morning I printed out Secret Garden 4 at Officeworks, then enjoyed some sit down time working out how I am going to adapt the pattern to suit the Wonderland theme I've added to the previous three blocks.

adding Wonderland eccentricities

Lastly, this evening, I've prepared the last applique pieces (tiny circles) to stitch onto Secret Garden block 3. They should be stitched on tomorrow, no worries. Then there's the quote from Alice in Wonderland to stitch on (where has my redwork and embroidery hoop gone? I took it somewhere.. maybe it's under a car seat or down the back of the couch.. hmm... ) I think by Wednesday's social sewing class I will be up to preparing applique pieces for SG4, even if the quote isn't stitched on yet.

Saturday, 6 May 2017



Yesterday I had finished stitching down everything already basted onto Diamond Hill block 4.

After a concerted effort the rest of the block has the edges prepared with spray starch and ironed under.

It's pretty exciting. Now I get to sit and stitch tonight. And if it's not all finished tonight. That's okay. I'll save some for when I don't feel in the mood to prepare whats next.

But tomorrow I get to finish Secret Garden 3, then I can start SG 4.

There's nothing like preparing for the next "project", or in this case block, to get me excited about finishing what I am working on. The prepared fabrics are just so patworthy. I just want to pat and stroke the fabric for the next block. Hee hee.

Although saying that, I need to be in the mood to prepare the pieces for SG4, as I am making significant modifications to it this time.