Sunday, 16 February 2014

Faux Trapunto

Wow, it's been quite a while since I last posted. The hot weather's been a bit of a drag and I've been struggling to get much done. I've moved my machine downstairs where it's cooler (and more air conditioned) so I don't have the convenience of my large overhead hanging device. This makes quilting large quilts a pain so I've been playing around with some small squares which I plan to sew together using the Quilt-As-You-Go method.

I've really enjoyed doing this, it's much easier going then large pieces so you can do really intricate work. Plus there's the added bonus of being able to try out different ideas and finishing them off quite quickly. Here's the first square I started with, using a closely spaced vertical line filler:

This project all started when I purchased a book by Don Quinn, Sophisticated Stitches. Just a side note: if you buy the ebook, as I did, I'd recommend buying it from the publishers (C&T publishing, follow the link) who sell it as a pdf which you can print, rather then from amazon who will sell you a lovely kindle file which you can admire on your screen and will require a herculean effort to extract onto paper! Whoo, lengthy side-note. Back to the book, it's fully of lovely motifs, and I was keen to try one out so I thought I'd try it out on a small square. It was a little dull on it's own so I added a filler and I was amazed to see how it came to life (I also really love the fabric colour). I'm not convinced the photos do it justice, so you'll have to take my word for it!

I really enjoy the way the motif puffs up and gains so much depth against the heavily quilted background. I've recently started another Craftsy course and they tell me this effect is called "faux trapunto", the effect of trapunto, without the effort. I'm definitely a fan. You can see in the next photo the difference before and after the background is added (and yes, they are different motifs! I forgot to take a photo before I filled.)

And here's a slightly skewed close-up of those pebbles:

I've decided to do a collection of motifs from the book with different fillers, then do a larger square with a more complicated design to complete the project. I've still got a way to go on this one but I might have been temporarily distracted by other projects of which there'll be more news later...

But back to this project, my last square uses a great little fill I found on Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project called Circuit Board, I was quite surprised how well this one came out.

Well that it's from me for now, would love to hear from you and see what quilting projects you've been working on over the Summer (or Winter, location dependent!).

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Going in Circles

I've got another quilt for you this week. This one turned out nothing like intended, but I'm rather fond of it all the same.

(Please excuse the dodgy looking sheet!)

When I first got my quilting machine I was fairly intimidated by the idea of quilting an entire quilt, so somewhat suggested making a "strippy" quilt, so you just have to fill long thin sections, rather then a large block.

Having seen a number of quilts made of narrow strips since, I don't think I really got the concept, but I made this quilt up with three long panels, made out of strips. I thought the panels were fairly narrow strips, but when faced with quilting the entire area I was rather daunted. Hence the presence of the circles (they also fulfilled my desire to use up my leftover fabric!).

I really was a bit stuck for ideas on how to quilt the panels once I'd but the circles in. I think if I were to do it again I'd probably do it quite differently, but I didn't want the quilting to detract from the circles. I also didn't realise how difficult it is to quilt a smooth curve.

The border also took me a long while to decide on, but I really love how it turned out. I seem to be using this design on everything. The pattern was inspired by one of Leah Day's designs, Ocean Current, although I've adapted it somewhat to achieve the look I was after.

This is the back, it's easier to see the quilting here.

The original pattern starts with a foundation line of swirls. I've kept this part, although I've got a much more distinct spirals throughout my foundation line. I then echo this line, adding more small spirals off to the side which adds extra interest. I've added an echo to each side of the original line, making sure the border is fairly evenly filled.

Now I just need to decide what to do with my growing number of quilts!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Feathered Frenzy

I'm totally excited about this post. I completely love this quilt, it's my favourite colours and it's covered in feathers! It's something of a surprise that it turned out so well, but a lovely surprise.

So let me explain. Having played around with a lot of fillers I really want to be able to create those beautiful feather motifs which seem designed specifically to fill the space on an individual quilt. If you've seen these quilts then hopefully you'll know what I mean. I was getting quite frustrated trying to find out how one learns this skill (of course I wanted to learn it instantly), eventually I came across this Carpenter's Star pattern on craftsy.

Now this seemed like a great project to tackle, although I suspected that the pattern wouldn't supply me with quilting instructions and I suspected I wouldn't be able to figure it out for myself. A little more googling led me to Patchwork Times which provided me with the required quilting explanations.

I soon realised I was going to require some serious practicing before I touched my final quilt so out came the calico. After finishing the feather lessons listed for the Carpenter's Square I got creative and started drawing different block shapes and tried filling them all with feathers. This is a technique which I learned in the Craftsy class I did: Design It, Quilt It, with Cindy Needham.

My feathers started off terrible, but the nice thing about feathers is that they look much better as a group then they do individually, so they're actually quite rewarding and they do improve rapidly. If you're intimidated by feathers I'd strongly encourage you to give it a go, it's super fun. I found drawing them out on paper first really helped to get the hang of the shape.

As my pile of calico grew it started to seem a waste of such lovely feathers and I felt like I should make a feather sampler- and so this quilt was created. I'd had a bundle of fat quarters for a while, so I pulled them out and played around with some different block shapes that would be fun to quilt, put some borders on and, voila!

For the quilting I marked out the spines on all the feathers and drew on the feathers for the circular ones (I can never get them to meet up if I try to quilt them without marking it out). The curves I've used are all fairly basic, a friend has shown me how some more interesting curves can fill the space better and I'm keen to play some more. She also suggested the border between the blocks, where the feathers swap sides, which worked really well for such a narrow space.
Here's a look at the back:

If you're working on a domestic machine then doing something like this as a quilt-as-you-go quilt could be a really fun way to work on feathers. I'm totally in love with feathers at the moment and would love to see any feather projects you've been working on, or hear any advice you have for learning how to quilt the beautiful feathers I see everywhere.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Giant Whole-cloth Project

It's too hot in Melbourne this week for quilting so I'm hiding out in the only room where the air-con's working. Seems like I'll be living in here for the next few days so it seemed like a good opportunity to take the time to post up another project, a large (1m x 1m) whole-cloth.

Having got my hands on a larger machine, I decided to try a slightly larger project. Still sticking with the whole-cloths I decided I wanted to go with a mushroom theme. I found a beautiful mushroom picture on-line (I cannot draw at all, unfortunately) but it was much more detailed then most of the images I'd used previously.
I decided to do a practice run of the mushrooms alone to check if they were going to work, before trying it on the main piece. It turned out wonderfully, far better then I expected. I was just somewhat sad that it was my practice piece because I liked it so much! In the end I decided to put it in a frame because I was so attached to it and didn't know what else to do with it.

With the practice piece done it was time to start again with the full size piece. I'd seen a photo of a beautiful whole-cloth which had sunflowers growing around the edge with grasshoppers  hiding on the leaves of the sunflowers. I really liked the idea of an elaborate border with insects hidden inside it. I soon realised I really didn't have the skill to design something like this yet (maybe one day). But with this inspiration I came up with a much simpler design which turned out quite nicely. Here's some close ups of the little insects perched around the edges:

It was surprising the difference the increase in size made to my ability to maneuver the fabric for doing fine details such as the inner pebble border. I ended up propping up the rest of the fabric on boxes to try and remove the weight from table. This is when the idea of pulleys in the ceiling began to take form!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A New Machine and More Whole-cloths

I guess I hadn't been quilting very long before I bought a long arm machine, but I was super hooked and I was really struggling to fit bigger projects under my domestic machine. I don't know how people quilt full size quilts on small machines. Much respect! There was much debate over what machine to get and if I could justify the expense, but I eventually went with the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen, because it has a fairly long arm but it allows me to sit down while I quilt. I have a fair few health problems and I've heard that the stand up machines are pretty hard on the body.

Getting the Sweet Sixteen was super exciting and I couldn't wait to get started playing with it. I was pretty hooked with the whole-cloth quilting after my first project. I was keen to come up with my own design but my shiny new machine was calling to me so I took the easy way out and downloaded a couple of patterns off the internet.

I bought these two patterns from, they're designed by April Sproule, and I just love them. They're quite different to most of the other whole-cloth designs I've seen and were great in that they introduced me to a range of different techniques. The size was perfect for starting out and getting familiar with my machine. There were some initial teething problems with the machine, but we soon got them sorted (I'm astonished how differently the machine acts with different types of threads). With everything running smoothly the designs didn't take too long to make up, and it was an absolute pleasure having all that space under the machine. I'm so in love! Here's some close up shots of some of the stitching:

I guess now I've got a big machine I need to start doing some bigger projects- maybe even, *gasp*, an actual quilt one day! Stay tuned to see what's next.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

My First Whole-cloth

After having a super fun Christmas full of new quilting patterns and far too much tasty food I've decided it's time for another post. Today I'd like to show you my first whole-cloth quilt. I'm super excited about this one because it's my own design and it has feathers!

Once I'd practiced a fair few fillers I really wanted to try and apply these patterns to a quilt. I was still using my domestic machine though so I didn't really feel ready to tackle a big quilt plus I didn't want to spend time piecing when I could be quilting. (I also didn't know what sort of designs to quilt onto pieced tops). For all these reasons whole-cloth seemed like a fun option to get me going. But finding a design I liked proved challenging. Most of the designs are fairly traditional with somewhat complicated patterns and no instructions for the background. So, I joined a Craftsy class and learned to design my own.

I've fallen in love with Craftsy, it's a great resource for learning new skills. I've really enjoyed the classes I've taken. It's nowhere near the experience of a real class, but being able to do things when you want is a great advantage. I found Cindy Needham's "Design It, Quilt It" class to be particularly useful, and it was after completing this class that I made this piece. Here's some up-close shots:

I'd been wanting to do some serious feather practice, so I wanted to incorporate lots of long swirls of feathers into the design, the concept of a sun seemed a nice idea. Using that as a focus I built up the borders using the concepts from Cindy's class and voila! I used a slightly metallic looking thread to bring out the design. As I neared the end of my sewing I hadn't really done much background and it looked a little bland, the feathers weren't really standing out. In the class Cindy had showed off her scribbling technique which she strongly recommended but I was worried it wouldn't work. I finally worked up the courage to give it a try and it really made the piece come alive.

I was really surprised how great the back looked too, on the black fabric. Was super happy when I finished this one!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Super fun Sampler

Today I want to tell you about the sampler I made in order to practice my quilting fillers:

Once I decided that quilting might be fun to try and learn, I did the usual thing and googled it. If you've ever tried it, you'll know that about the first 5 responses you get to free motion quilting is Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project. It is one of the most amazing sites in the world, with masses of free resources and everything you need to get you going with tonnes of instructions and inspiration.

She has created over 400 free motion quilting fillers. Of course I started with the intention of quilting them all, but that didn't last long, and I just moved on to those that looked the most fun. After playing with scraps for a while I decided I should try and fill entire squares, as Leah does in her videos, which is when I discovered her quilt-as-you-go sampler quilt. I can't find that pattern on her website anymore, but it's not complicated, she's also got a bunch of other great beginner samplers if you're interested.

Quilt-as-you-go means you quilt the individual squares then join them all together later. This was great for learning because it meant I could really focus on mastering the designs, without worrying about trying to squeeze a giant quilt through the machine. I just picked my favourite designs off her website and used some assembly instructions I picked up at a quilt fair. There are a number of methods you can use for quilt-as-you-go, here's Leah's recommendations, but I'm sure you can find others online.

The original pattern for this sampler called for 30 squares, but I'm afraid my attention span isn't quite that long, after 12 squares my mind was plotting my next projects. After my pile of squares had sat unattended for a while I decided to call it quits and assemble what I had. In the end credit has to go to my very obliging mother that the squares made it to a quilt, because my dedication to sewing is far less then my dedication to quilting!

Here's some pics of the finished project, was a bit tricky to get a good photo, but you get the idea.

The front is black, with a variegated red/orange/ yellow Gutterman thread. I used calico on the back and that ended up looking quite pretty too.

I've talked to some people who love the website but have never tried the patterns. I'd really encourage everybody to have a play. You can sort them according to difficulty, so you can start with some fairly easy ones and work your way up. With a bit of practice you'll soon be mastering patterns you never thought you'd be able to. The instructions on the site also break the patterns down and make them seem completely achievable.