Thursday, 22 September 2016

Vroom Vroom! My first Sweet 16 Project.

I love France. It's my second home. And despite not seeing them as often as I'd like, I still love my French family from when I was on exchange 16 years ago. My beautiful French nephew turned 7 this year. Where does the time go? So of course - I wanted to make him a quilt. Due to geography I don't feel I know this little boys interests, but I know his dad, and I knew anything to do with cars or motorbikes would be a winner! Staying with my mum in Adelaide, we ducked to the local discount quilting store and I had no trouble finding a fantastic panel and some wicked matching fabric. Added a few solids from my stash at home, and I was ready to roll (pun intended).

I must interrupt this quilt story there for some breaking news. I have a HQ Sweet 16. Yes, that's correct. A new quilting machine. Thanks to a very generous mother and a very understanding husband, I purchased the ex demo model from my local HQ dealer and negotiated a great price. Well, what can I say. This machine has completely changed the way I approach the quilting stage of my projects. To have that space and versatility for free motion quilting and rulers etc. I'm in heaven. Most surprising of all, it doesn't really take up much space in my sewing room which is actually just the landing at the top of our stairs.

I thought this relatively simple panel quilt would be a great introduction to using the Sweet 16. I just tried to follow the obvious lines around the images on the panel and did a medium size stipple on the border. As for the sold lines at the top and bottom of the panel, I wanted to do something a bit more exciting so decided to free-motion some racing cars from Lori Kennedy's website. Being my first Sweet 16 quilt I used Golden Quilters paper fed through my printer to give me an outline to follow. It was so easy after that and how great do my cars look!

The icing on the cake for the quick and effective quilt, was the email I got very early one Wednesday morning. It was from my French sister, saying how happy her boy was to receive the quilt. Apparently he's been taking it everywhere and telling everyone that Clementine made it for him in Australia. Oh my heart!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Lattice Quilt; why you should join your local quilt group.

I joined the Modern Quilt faction of the Canberra Quilters in the first half of last year, on the suggestion of a colleague who found out I was a quilter. I didn't even know such a group existed and I've been a keen member ever since. Each month we meet and share and learn, in the most friendly and supportive environment. These lovely people have given me so much confidence in my own quilting and I've learnt so much looking at other people's projects and listening to their stories.

During my first ever Modern Quilt meeting, one of our leaders, the amazing Jenny Bowker, demonstrated a relatively simple and effective lattice quilt block tutorial from the Moda Bake Shop. Despite the complicated appearance, the block was just a methodical 'sew-turn-cut-repeat' deal made from a jelly roll and some yardage.

I think traditionally, this type of quilt block would feature a lighter background with bright strips. In true quilt-a-holic fashion, I chose to make the quilt using only fabric form my stash which happened to be a beautiful Moda Jelly Roll called 'Weeds'. I loved the colours and always intended to use the fabric on a quilt for my best friend who was yet to receive one of my creations. I just love the way the red, black and grey work on this fabric. It's rich, but warm at the same time.

After making up an initial five or so blocks, I put the project aside with the intention of running up the odd block or two whenever I had some free sewing time. Well, lesson learnt. There is no such thing as 'free sewing time' for a working mum of two small children. So over a year after beginning the quilt, I finally got it out again a few months ago and really started to enjoy the methodical 'sew-turn-cut' process. WARNING: Do not cut in the wrong place! I had to be very creative to find enough fabric to fix a couple of errors from accidentally cutting 1/4 inch off the cutting line. I strongly recommend using some masking tape on your ruler to ensure this does not happen!

To help add a focal point to this relatively busy quilt, I put some appliquéd poppies in the corner made from three shades of red batik fabric. I think they really bring it all together and I enjoyed doing a little 'thread painting' around the centres. I just did raw edge appliqué and I find the effect really impressive. Unfortunately I didn't take any close up pictures of the poppies so you'll have to make do with the finished quilt photo.

Once I got the quilt top together, I decided to do a large spiral for the quilting. At a recent Modern Quilting meeting I'd seen someone else's spiral quilt and I thought it would be good for this project as the piecing was quite busy and any overly creative quilting would just be lost. What made the quilting of this particular project so much easier was a frame my mum recently helped me set up. It's a $10 clothing rack from IKEA with elastic ropes and clamps. All in all it probably cost no more than $30 to set up and is so great for taking the weight of the quilt whilst doing Free-Motion, binding, or really any stitching that has the quilt bulk pulling away from the machine.

Then, because I could never possibly make a plain quilted project, I quilted about 15 poppy outlines in red randomly across the quilt. A quick label on my Bernina embroidery module and I was done.

This quilt whilst occasionally frustrating when I made mistake, was really satisfying in the end. I think the appliqué really makes the whole and for a 60" square quilt, it'll be a perfect couch quilt for my friend.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Scrappy quilt - lets get decorative!

I have always wanted to use my sewing machine for more than just basic stitching. My amazing Bernina 440QE has so many beautiful stitches and I've been on the lookout for the perfect project to use them. The answer - a scrappy block quilt in beautiful bold colours with decorative stitching over the seams. 


A quick sub-note here that these beautiful fabrics were purchased from the website connectingthreads.com. Not only do they offer free shipping to Australia when you spend over $75 (amazing!) they also have a pretty good range of quilting supplies including pre-cut selections they put together themselves. My fabrics included lots of different ranges including Cotton and Steel which I just adore.

Armed with this design plan, I hit the cutting board and got organised. My first problem, I needed some muslin to use as the background fabric to stitch my cut pieces to and I didn't have any. Solution, I cut up one of the children's old cot sheets. It was perfect. Whilst not 100% cotton, it was thin enough to not add excess bulk but tough enough to stitch onto. Winner. 

I chose this pattern as I wanted a quick block. My previous project had taken ages to piece so this one was a perfect remedy. I was also very methodical with my piles of fabric so as to spread the colours evenly. This is how I put it together

  1. Place a square of fabric somewhere centre-ish on the square of muslin. This pattern works best if the block are NOT all the same.
  2. Stitch two triangles on opposite sides of the square. Press.
  3. Optional - I did decorative stitching along these seems using polyester embroidery thread.
  4. Attach another two triangles to the remaining edges of the central square. Press. Optional: stitch over seams as before.
  5. Trim blocks to 6 1/2"
  6. Join blocks, quilt as desired and bind.
The finished size of my blocks was 6". This was a really workable size and meant that I didn't have to do a lot of quilting. I just did a decorative wavy line over the main seams. I made my quilt 7 x 7 squares due to the amount of fabric I had and it ended up perfect knee rug size. This also meant I had a couple of blocks leftover - perfect for a quilt label. 

I was just so happy with the final product on this project. It was everything I wanted and I've kept all the little offcuts for further scrap busting projects. It probably also helps that I made this quilt for one of my closest, most supportive friends. Happy quilting! 


Monday, 12 October 2015

Hope Bag - My school holiday project.

I'm back teaching this week, but man, the school holidays were not the relaxing, craft filled experience I had anticipated. Husband and au pair both away on over seas trips meant we got Big Mama in for an extra set of hands to cuddle my two babies who put it on big time having Daddy away.

That being said, I did manage to finish the Tara Rebman Craftsy class 'Quilt as You Go Patchwork Bag' and it was amazing. Tara is incredible and after having her talk to me for so long, I feel like she is my friend! Ah the delusions of media. Aside from the great, transferable techniques Tara teaches, the piece of advice that has made the biggest impact on me is this. If you have fabric you love, use it. We all stash. It's part of quilting. Don't be afraid of ruining larger cuts by taking pieces out - it doesn't matter! 

So this is what I did. I picked some of my favourite fabrics and added some extras to make my bag, and I LOVE it. The bag is made from various quilting cottons with an upholstery fabric on the bottom to make it a little sturdier. Then to finish off this lovely bag, the word Hope has ended up right there on the flap, completely by accident. 

Hope. An interesting concept. And one that is amazingly perfect for my life right now. We've been through the ringer this last 2 1/2 years but have come through. We are on the up and this bag is a lovely representation of the hope I have for the future.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Hubba Hubba Quilt Follow-Up

I first posted about this cute quilt back at the end of July (see here), but got busy with my special request quilt and working the new school term. Today however, I finally finished it and am ultimately happy with the results.
Seam pressing took forever!

Basically, I cannot believe so much effort went into making such a small quilt. It's about 40 x 60 inches which is fine for its destination, but this sort of fiddly piecing is not something I'm signing up again for in a hurry. I was so disciplined pressing all the seams the right way and 'pin wheeling' the bigger junctions. Despite all this, there are still many puffy seems on the quilt top that made the actual quilting quite difficult.

I chose to do an all over free motion pattern for this one and in hindsight, I think I made things a bit trickier than they needed to be. Given the thickness of some seams, I should have chosen a simpler, more geometric design. That all being said, the hot pink thread I used looks great and really gives the project a lift.

What did work really well on this project was that I was able to use the backing to do the binding due to the relative small size. It meant the binding took no time at all and I used a bit of a decorative stitch to add to the project theme - a quilt for a little girl.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Special Request Quilt - Featuring Machine Embroidery and Appliqué

It happens every now and then, a good friend calls with a special request. Mine came last month in the form of a gift quilt for a lady who's family was in the midst of much turmoil. My friend lived far away and thought a quilt would be a nice way of sending them a warm hug. I agreed and got to work.

It's times like these that a good fabric stash comes in real handy. Some graph paper and a brainstorm later, and we were running. The 'client' has two young girls but my friend wanted a more timeless quilt that would grow with the children and appeal to the mother too. I decided to do a simple patchwork design accented with some designs done on my Bernina Embroidery Attachment. It took AGES to stitch out the 9 different designs (Ecco from Embroidery Online) but the result was well worth it. 

The quilt features 6"squares with 2" borders. In hindsight, I think the 6:2 ratio is a little unbalanced, I would have preferred a smaller border. Never the less, the quilt still looks great. The fabric is 'Weekends' by Erin McMorris for Freespirit Fabrics and I used some Kona Solids for the embroidery backgrounds. Once the embroidery squares were done the sewing of the quilt top didn't take so long and I used strips of the fabrics to make the backing colourful and interesting in its own right. 

The only real difficulty I found with this quilt was when it came to sandwiching. The quilt was about 62" square and I really struggled to find a surface big enough to get all the layers placed right. Check the photo for my creative table enlarger. 

To finish of the project I used Westalee Rulers to make a beautiful continuous rope on all the 2" strips. It really didn't take so long and once I got in the groove the rulers really made the process quite quick. The squares feature a combination of ruler designs and free motion quilting to highlight the beautiful fabrics. 

In my haste to get the quilt off to its new owners I forgot to take a proper photo - drat! But hopefully I can get one later down the track. What's most important is that the quilt was made with lots of love for people who need a little extra support right now. This is why I love quilting. I get to make unique and beautiful creations to bring joy to others. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Simple Sewing Machine Maintenance for Quilters

Sewing Machine maintenance is critically important for the long-term health of your machine. If you are sewing pretty much every day, especially with batting, you really must get that fluff out from the workings of the machine every day. Simple maintenance means less trips to the service centre, less expenditure (more money for buying fabric) and more time sewing!

One of the best pieces of advice I've received about sewing machine maintenance, is not to wait for the machine to tell you it needs oil. I don't usually sew every day, but I sew most days. A tiny drop of oil once every week or two is great. Do NOT over oil. Wipe excess away and always wipe off excess with a fabric scrap.

Basic Process

Step 2
1. Remove bobbin, bobbin casing, foot and thread. You can remove the needle too if you think you may get into trouble.

2. Take off stitch plate. For mine, you just push in the corner and it pops up.

Step 3
3. Open bobbin housing and remove parts.

4. Get your nifty little cleaning brush that comes with every machine and go crazy.

5. Add a tiny bit of oil (when required).

6. Put everything back in the right spot! This is important. If not, the machine won't work. ;)

I'm always amazed what gunk comes out of my machine even if I had only cleaned it a day before. Push the bush into as many nooks and crannies you can.

Don't blow in your machine. Sewing machines don't like moisture (oil is not moisture). Most important thing to remember is that any sewing creates lint build up in the machine but batting, of any sort, is particularly messy. It takes no time to quickly open the machine up and clear out the lint. Well made machines really do last a lifetime and this simple maintenance will ensure smoother sewing for all.

NB: Your individual sewing machine manual should explain how to strip down your machine for cleaning.