Saturday, 12 November 2011

The joys of Spring

Just had to share with you this amazing view from my office. Simply stunning.

Natalie's quilt

Natalie, my cousin, turns 21 in December.  I decided to make her a quilt for her birthday and here's what I came up with.  

The fabric is Snow Flower by FreeSpirit - 'a fun and whimsical collection that evokes the spirit of Winter and the promise of Spring'.  I started with a central panel that had several 11-inch vignettes in it. Then, using the Squaredy Cat approach, I pieced more vignettes using fabrics from the Snow Flower family plus a couple of ringers from my stash (spot the Amy Butler Moon Dots). 

I'd been wanting to do a grey-based quilt for ages so jumped at the chance to use a soft dove-grey for the sashing and borders. The back is made up of all the leftover fabric (no picture, sorry!).  

When it came to the quilting, I initially wanted to do a nice relaxed meandering free motion stitch all over.  I literally dreamed about it.  Unfortunately, on the day I was anything but relaxed and I just couldn't get the rhythm going.  I had loops on TOP of my fabric!  So, having 'reverse quilted' with my trusty quick unpick about 50m of thread, rethreaded, cleaned and defluffed my machine (unscrewed face plate and everything), changed the needle and rewound the bobbin without success, I conceded defeat and went with plan B -  echoing the clean lines and geometrics of the pieced top.  It's not ruler-perfect but I think the result is cool and I hope Natalie is pleased with it too.  

What this quilt taught me is that quilting is a lot like life.  Sometimes you don't end up where you thought you were going - and you are better, for it.  Sometimes the way you get to your destination is not how you planned - you need to 'sit loose in the saddle' and go with the flow, having the courage to change, otherwise you can get yourself into a real mess.  In the end, you can only be yourself - everyone else is taken. 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Friday's Work in Progress Update



Summer Breeze

Finished - Fiona's Gingham Roses quilt

It's only taken me about 15-20 years but I've finally finished 'Fiona's Gingham Roses'.  This was the first ever quilt I was tempted to make. It was the fabric I fell for, its by Lakehouse.

Fiona, bless you, do you remember dragging me into Cushla's Village Fabrics in Devonport, Auckland, NZ? That was before they moved to the main street. I'd seen your amazing quilting but whilst impressed I hadn't yet been bitten by the bug. Then I saw these fabrics and was hooked.

Of course, knowing NOTHING about quilting and blithely ignoring your sage advice to stick within a particular family of fabrics (oh please, I didn't even know what a fabric family was back then), and have a pattern in mind, I just picked what I liked and these pink and green rose and gingham fabrics bit me hard. Colour values? What colour values? How important could they be?  Triangles? Squares? Fat Quarters?  Templates?  Rulers? Rotary Blades? Cutting Mats? It meant nothing at the time.

(I also recall ignoring your advice to buy more fabric than I actually did. Thus I found myself rethinking my original vision when, six months later, I could no longer get any more of the original fabrics!)

I got stuck in but soon enough I realised something wasn't quite working about this quilt. It was those colour values, they'd come back to haunt me. I became despondent about it, and Fiona's Gingham Roses (FGR) became a UFO in one of (now many) large, fabric-filled, plastic craft trundlers that quietly simmered under the bed.  I moved on to other projects, finishing Manda's log cabin quilt and Leisa's Cat of Nine Tales, slowly learning the ins and outs of quilting from fabulous places like Cushla's, and Grandmother's Garden, in Gordonton, always getting distracted away from FGR by lust for other gorgeous fabrics.

Fiona, you tried to spark some reinterest a few years later when you cleverly found me a pillow that used some of the same fabrics. I hauled FGR out and even added some lovely floral ribbon trim, but still it wasn't quite right so it remained a UFO.

Late in 2010 I dragged it along to a machine quilting for beginners class with the fabulous Ros Johnson from Squiltz, held at Stitch. Well, that was a revelation!  I vowed to finish FGR if it was the last thing I did, deciding to use it as a practice quilt for machine quilting techniques (don't look too closely! I was having too much fun to be accurate in some places.)

But even sandwiched, backed, pinned, free motion quilted and finally bound, FGR still wasn't right.

The stroke of genius was the addition of some deep, dark scarlet grosgrain ribbon that I found at Creative Flair craft market about a month ago.  Of course, I didn't buy the ribbon with FGR in mind, it was for another project entirely (a project it turned out it was entirely wrong for). When I tried it against FGR I realised I finally had a balance for the annoyingly, too soft, pink stripe and it also made the other fabrics pop. Eureka! I love unconscious competence!

So, thank you Fiona! 'Fiona's Gingham Roses' is now finished. I shall immortalise you with a nice label on the back of the quilt in due course, and I shall use it on my bed when I'm at your old School during term time (no cat hair there!). Can't wait!

Is that a nab star on the back, Fiona? Surely not. Whatever could that be referring to?

Friday, 23 September 2011

K-Dawg and my pups

No, I'm not talking about some 50's pop group, K-Dawg is the moniker my lovely girls here at School have bestowed on me.  These 'pups' are now demanding to be mentioned in my blog. They are all such amazing young women and I am very privileged to spend weekends with them. This last year or so they've really been put through the ringer, what with a 'dead' body, fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, aftershocks (7000 and counting), evacuations, fake phones, OMG, R16, fish, turtles, staff changes and tents.  I am endlessly impressed by how my girls have coped with all that on top of the usual teenage trials and tribulations. Lately we've had a bit of a blitz on in NOT. Its...progressing.

In return for trying to teach them good manners, resilience, independence and maturity, I am constantly learning new things from them. Right now, one of my girls, Eliza, is trying to teach me some choice Thai phrases (yes Eliza, it DOES count as swearing even if it's in another language!)  Frances just showed me how to make the best rubberband/finger gun. It shoots brilliantly, but never at people!  Lauren is forever trying to get me interested in Justin Bieber (I'm resisting), whilst Thornton has the most infectious laugh it makes it really hard to tell her off and keep a straight face.  Makayla knows everything to know about birds and has a real knack for extending time (especially at bed time!).  I'm convinced Maddie is going to be a great dancer.  Rose has brilliant comic timing (ask her about the nuts), Izzy is a natural performer/fashionista, and Holly and Ella are sure to be featured in a haircare commercial one day - all they need is their own wind machine for those glorious tresses.  And, even though it means a very early start for my intrepid rowers (6am wake up calls, on a Saturday) this might result in an olympic finish at London 2012 or Rio 2016 so I probably cannot complain (really? Are you sure?!)

With more than 70 girls in total to look after, plus their lovely friends from time to time who also come in and say hi (Hi Clem, Hi Julia), as well as the terrific extended staff family, watch this space for more about them and their antics.

Close shave

Poor Flash. As a persian he has fur that demands to be brushed or it tangles. Unfortunately, his undercoat mats up as soon as look at it, and so close to the skin that we've been unable to brush out the knots without hurting him. Also he has very sharp claws and teeth and is not afraid to use them!  So last week we sent him off to the "hair dresser" (aka the Vet) who did a complete health check and trimmed those nails. She also trimmed away the matted hair leaving Flash with a mohawk!

Flash was a bit out of it that first night while the sedative wore off so, until he could regulate his own temperature again, a wee singlet kept him warm.

Suffice to say, as soon as he was feeling himself again (about 2am) that singlet went west...we still haven't found it.

Embracing the chaos

Some people say you should only do one thing at once, or risk doing everything poorly. I say NUTS to that!  The last few weeks have been a revelation, working concurrently on several different projects.

First there's the French Quilt; made with Moda Breath of Avignon and some lovely complementary french fabrics I had in my stash.  This is going to be a big HST number, paired with white.

Then there's the Freespirit one, teamed with gorgeous grey...

And the Summer House one, just a riot of colour....

And Gingham Roses is almost finished! I've been experimenting with some different machine quilting designs and added a terrific splash of scarlet red by trimming it in a grosgrain ribbon. This has made the world of difference and I feel much better about the colour balance now. Expect finished quilt photo in next few days. 

Admittedly, the quilting table is a bit of a mess but there is method in my madness;  I'm getting a heap of work done on them all and loving it!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Final journey for Aunty's quilt

Beloved Great Aunty Jean died suddenly but peacefully on Friday. This Wednesday she will be farewelled by family and friends in the Hawkes Bay, wrapped in her birthday quilt, surrounded with love.

Dear Great Aunty Jean, 
You were a great lady in so many ways. I thank you for everything. I miss you too. The ragged edges of the hole you leave behind are raw and painful right now. But, like your indomitable spirit, the memories of your grace, faith and love are rising to the surface to make it good grief. Knowing you are finally reunited with Uncle Jim after so long makes my sadness bearable. I am sorry I did not get to see you in June for your birthday and that I will no longer have the chance to hear your voice on the phone each week. You did such an amazing job of being you. A true original. I am so much better for knowing you. Rest peacefully. 
Love always,

For the flowers in her garden that Aunty loved
I used 1930's reproduction fabrics that Aunty may have recognized from her youth
Aunty's garden had amazing dahlias
Bright binding for Aunty
Two gardens on Aunty's quilt; one for the front of the house, one for the back
The grass at Aunty's was always perfectly edged. Hearts in squares for all the lives she touched. 
Aunty Jean's fudge slice
1/4lb butter
1/4lb sugar
1 T cocoa
1 egg
Mix all into a saucepan and stir until melted. Take off heat and stir in 1/2lb roughly crushed round wine (plain) biscuits. (!/2 cup of nuts may also be added). Spread out into a shallow dish and leave to set. Slice  and store in an airtight container.
Enjoy with a cuppa and someone you love.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

More icing on the quake

This extraordinary photo captures an extraordinary time; a second heavy dumping of snow this winter, here in the Garden City, blankets the ruined Cathedral Square.  Freshly bulldozed quake-damaged structures like The Press building (bottom middle-right) are no more than bizarrely vacant lots these days. Just memories.  Still hard to fathom this crazy year we've had but I appreciate the effort Mother Nature is going to in order to cover up some of the ugliness for a while.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

When life gives you lemons, make quilt lemonade

Being sick for the last couple of months has put a bit of a crimp in my study plans for this semester. So, whilst I focus on getting better in preparation for Summer School in November, I am looking forward to a couple of months making lemonade by getting into my stash!  Whoo hoo!

I haven't forgotten about my Grand Plan (see earlier posts) but there's a need for a quilt for someone in the next couple of months and I'm thinking this lovely combo, Snow Flower by Dena for Free Spirit, would be just the ticket!

I love the freshness of it and the little birds are very cute. I'm thinking I'll split up the central panel, create some 12 inch blocks (like these squaredy-cat ones from modabakeshop) with the FQs and use the grey for some sashing in between. My favorite Amy Butler dot fabric is perfect for binding.

Not sure about backing yet, will see what else is in my stash. My new motto is "Make do, or do without" but, having said that, I am extremely lucky to have a pretty glorious stash to choose from.

I do have someone in mind as the recipient for this quilt but... my lips are sealed.

Oh, and its been and snowed quite a lot again (twice in one winter in Chch...rare!)  so I really have no excuse but to get the sewing machine out.
Flash prints in the snow...'cause he's the brave one

Flash napping after his latest adventure in the snow

Thursday, 4 August 2011

What makes me happy

I hope everyone is lucky enough to have someone in their life like my dear friend Fiona. Today these amazing flowers arrived as she knew I'd been a bit under the weather.  Bright and fragrant, they are so beautiful, just like their sender.

The card says: "Being sick is so crappy. Time to start a 'What makes me happy journal' #1 Fresh Flowers."  What a great idea. So here goes my starter for 10, and just writing it down actually makes me feel better.  Is Fiona fabulous, or what?!

  1. My amazing family, who make it all possible and worthwhile.
  2. My fabulous friends who are always there for me and make my world.
  3. Morning kisses, bedtime cuddles, and bed making 'assistance' from Zorro, Flash and Fluff.
  4. Fresh Flowers.
  5. A great book.
  6. Fabric.
  7. Singing.
  8. Christchurch on a crisp, clear winter morning with snow on the Alps and a Nor'west arc in the beautiful blue sky.
  9. Learning new things.
  10. My girls at School.
  11. ... writing this blog, and this list!
  12. Colour
Feel free to post me a comment about things that make YOU happy.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Loving Liberty

I've always wanted to do a quilt with Liberty fabric but its very expensive to buy. Then, a few months ago I was lucky enough to be the winning bidder on an affordable UFO (UnFinished Object) quilt project on Trademe.  Whoo hoo!
Fluff turned her back on the initial fabric explosion
Snowed in and still coughing, last week was a perfect opportunity to sort through it all, so I've been steadily ironing two full bags of crumpled bits and pieces to see exactly what I bought.  What a treasure trove of fabric that turned out to be!

Zorro, you and your mouse are not helping!
Starting to stack up
Still a few more to sort through...

...and iron!
Each different Liberty design and colorway is now separated into its own little see-through bag and I am stoked!  There's so much fabric!  (Don't worry, the bags are just an interim measure whilst I figure out what I'm doing).

Zorro and Flash 'helping'
The pattern already started is a nice traditional pieced one, and very well sewn. I think it suits the fabrics so I'll definitely keep going and complete it.  

I'm so rapt, my stash is well and truly complete and I promise, I AM NOT BUYING ANYMORE FABRIC until I've finished my Grand Plan. But I'd also like to do a Jewel Box quilt and there's going to be plenty of leftover Liberty...

Mmmm, a Jewel Box would look stunning in Liberty, don't you think?!

The icing on the quake

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Go Flash, Go!

Pretty, with paw prints

Drive with caution!

Yeah, na.  Fluff and Zorro prefer snow as a spectator sport
25 July saw our first big dump of snow for the year on our shaken city. For 2 days we were blanketed in inches of thick white crystals. Magic! Stuck inside, we watched in wonder as the snow kept falling on and off for 48 hours.  The cats were perplexed, not having seen snow before. Flash braved the wierd white stuff but Zorro and Fluff preferred to watch from the sidelines.  It would take another 3 days of blustery nor'westerly winds and then overnight rain before the Big Snow was just a memory.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

New fabric!

Okay, so I'm not admitting anything, but if I DID purchase some more fabric, this time from Pink Castle Fabrics on ETSY, then it would be this gorgeous combo by Anthology called Sweet Tooth.  Don't you just want to eat them all up?!  I love the bold colours. I've even found this photo of a quilt somebody else did using them.  Now, how do I fit them into my Grand Plan...and how do I justify their purchase?  Let the scheming begin!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Grand Plan + Practical Guide to Patchwork

I'm very excited! I still have no voice but I am definitely on the mend, and yesterday I found this amazing book at StitchPlayroom and another piece of my grand plan fell into place. What grand plan? Let me tell you!

Ever since I saw Julie vs Julia, the fab story of a blogger and a cookbook, I've had this idea to do the same. No, I'm not planning to cook my way through the extraordinary Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Nor am I going to jump on the popular bandwagon that is sweeping the globe as (seemingly) thousands quilt along to The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt: Letters from 1920s Farm Wives and the 111 Blocks They Inspired.  This is a great book but just a bit intimidating and I'm not sure I want to get that fiddly.

My choice of a project to work my way through and blog about as I go, whilst simultaneously destashing my (not inconsiderable) fabric collection (which I may or may not have added to yesterday - a

Huge Kaffe Shipment has arrived instore!

at StitchPlayroom - don't ask and I won't tell), is the amazing Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman. If you haven't stopped by her website, Oh Frannson!, and you are a fan of modern quilting, click here now!   

Elizabeth's book is beautifully written, so easy to follow, and uses fresh modern fabrics in gorgeous ways. There are 12 projects to make, each with alternative colourway suggestions or quilting options. Plenty to keep me busy.  Fenella at StitchPlayroom is already working on 'Valentine' and its looking terrific! She'll have it up in the shop soon for all to gaze at and enjoy.  

Oooh, I know I've got some lovely french fabrics that would look awesome made up as 'Planetarium'. And all those japanese fabrics...come on down 'Small Plates'.  Mmmm, my Kaffe and Amy Butler collections would equally be gorgeous made up as 'Rain or Shine'...

And Rural Jardin, I think you were made for 'Superstar!' ...

Then there's my Moda Make Life and Pure charm packs...

oh and my Marimekkos...

and the new Anthology pack that should be arriving from Pink Castle Fabrics any day...

and all the spots and dots I've been amassing.  Then there's my stack of Valori Wells brushed cottons...  

LOL! Its going to be fantastic!

To be fair, I'm not sure when I'll find a moment to work on this grand plan, exactly, as I am supposed to be studying full time for my degree, and working full time too, but where there's a will there's a way! So watch this space. 

Right, I'm off to read my new book again now and scheme and plan and dream.  Like my new favorite quote says, 

"For Maximum Results with Minimum Effort, you need only add a few stitches in bright colors."