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.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Hubba Hubba: A quilt for a special little girl - Part 1

I love making quilts for people and have attempted, somewhat successfully, to give quilts to my close friend's children on their birthday. With one such first birthday coming up in October, I recently set about piecing a quilt. What makes this quilt especially important is that the baby's mother is one of my closet friend's who lost a baby girl late in her pregnancy the year before. Often it is only through tragedy that we can appreciate the gifts we have. 

As most good project do, this one started off with the purchasing of a couple of cute Hubba Hubba charm packs during a Hobby Sew pre-cuts sale. I love the bold colours that still have a girly feel, perfect for a quilt intended to follow a child through to the teenage years. Having spent a lot of my quilting time on appliqué designs I was keen to try a more complicated pieced quilt and eventually settled on this one from the Moda Bake Shop, but half the size. I don't even know the name of this block, but I should end up with a roughly 40" x 50" quilt. Seemed easy enough; charm squares paired with some cute spotted fabric to tone down the sometimes extremely bright prints. I generally really enjoy the cutting out stage of making a quilt. I love cracking out the graph paper and working out how many metres of fabric I need to get the bits I want. In this case however; I think I underestimated the time it would take to do the blocks properly. They are small, cute and a little fiddly. 

My workroom can often be a busy space. Between my dog and children there is almost constant interruptions and distractions. Given that I didn't have much fabric to spare with this quilt I was keen to avoid mistakes at any cost and to find an efficient way to work through the various steps. The quilt is made from 80 charm squares which are initially sewn to 80 5"squares of spotty fabric. I thus decided to do each step 80 (and ultimately 320, but 80 sounds better) times. 

The first stage was easy, sew the 5" squares together all around the edge then cut twice through the diagonal. Great. I then pressed these now triangles into squares. Not too bad. Then it got tough. I now had 320 squares that needed to be trimmed to 3". Ouch. No kidding, I think I aggravated an old wrist injury from holding the ruler still. Lucky I started the project so early as I am not progressing anywhere near as fast as anticipated. I've just had to do a little bit here and there when I've had time so as not to ruin my body in the process. It's done now though and I'm almost half way through sewing two quarters together to form two halves. The rest of the quilt should come together a lot quicker, right??

Here is the lowdown on this little girl's quilt. 

  • 2 x Hubba Hubba charm packs (80 squares used)
  • 1 x 1/2 yard of four different spotty fabrics = 2 yards (I'm going to use the leftovers for binding). Cut these into 20 x 5" squares per fabric.
  1. Sew charm pack pieces to spotty pieces with a 1/4" seem all around the edge.
  2. Cut the sewn squares in half diagonally, twice. 
  3. Press these now triangles into smaller squares.
  4. Trim the now 320 squares to 3" making sure the seem is centred diagonally.
  5. Sew into cute blocks pressing seems all the same way to make a pinwheel in the middle (this will be explained further in the next post).

I'm impatient to get through to the quilting stage of this project cause I have some grad plans to use my circular rulers along with some FMQ to create something pretty on top. But tell me, what are your tips for getting through the tedious trimming stage? I honestly think I would have died had I decided to do the quilt bigger.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Princess and the Pea - Quilt and Growth Chart

When my baby girl was born, my Mum had set a bit of a precedence with the Jack and the Bean Stalk growth chart she'd made for my son (see here). In true Big Mama style, she came out with this wondrous pair: matching Princess and the Pea cot quilt and growth chart. I had some input into the colour scheme but essentially this is all Big Mama's design and work. She has incorporated some machine embroidery to do Aimee's name and birth details but the majority is appliqué with free motion quilting. As is usual, I don't think the photos do the beautiful quilting justice so you'll just have to take my word for it. 

I love the thought of Aimee snuggling under this gorgeous quilt, all warm in her cot. These are true works of art and pieces I'm hoping Aimee will keep for years to come. I just wish she had kept the pattern pieces from the appliqué! I think there'd totally be a market there.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Easiest Quilt I've Ever Made

As stupid as it sounds, I totally get mummy guilt when I spend too much time sewing, even if half the time the children are in the room with me playing. In an attempt to free myself of said guilt, yesterday I made my son a play-mat quilt. He is a three year old boy so the obvious choice was Lightening Mcqueen!

Here are the instructions.

1. Buy licensed panel from fabric store and accompanying themed fabric to go on the back.
2. Sandwich together with your choice of batting.
3. Quilt as simply or as detailed as you feel you have the time and inclination for.
4. Bind in matching colour.

For mine, I did the equivalent of 'in the ditch' stitching around the black border, a larger stipple all over the centre and wavy lines with intermittent stars in the red border.

Done. Love. Happy days.