Friday, July 31, 2009

Au revoir

Its so hard to photograph black quilts but I wanted to show you my first ever applique quilt which I also hand quilted.
I adapted it from a Nancy Pearson pattern back in 1995. I made this specifically for our small guild challenge and it won a third place ribbon. The quilt also ended up in a New Zealand quilters diary. I used fabrics and methods that I would never use today and it's interesting to see the change in my style. I'm going to sit and baste these pieces on for my last princess feather block tonight. I'm hoping I can take it on holiday for a stitching fix when I need it.
I'm away in New Zealand for three weeks from Sunday. My DS, DD and granddaughters as well as a sister live in Auckland and I'm off to help out my DD as she is about to have her 4th child. A boy this time after three girls. My DS also turns 24 while I'm there and one of the children is turning two. I'm pretty excited to see them again.
Just in the nick of time I got my nine patches done for this month and thought I had better do next months as well. Never mind that I'm behind on my BOM.
I don't think I'm going to have much to blog about so this could be a break but I'll still try to keep up with my blog reading, until next time, may all your stitches be small.
Hoo roo as they say in Oz.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Mary Mannakee block

This is the third block completed so far. I'm so loving working with these lovely fabrics. Here's the three that I've done so far. They're not trimmed to size yet. The blocks finish at 16 inches.
When I haven't had the applique on the go, I've picked up my hand quilting. How long does it take for you to hand quilt a whole quilt? It takes me a long long time and I wish I worked on it more regularly but I do it in spurts and mainly in the evening. No wonder it takes awhile.
For some reason I feel guilty picking it up during the day, as if I have no business sitting down to quilt when I could be doing something more productive or active. I need to get over that don't I?
I've done the main body of the quilt and have the corner blocks to go before the borders. If I don't quilt inside the flowers, the whole shape pops up and the petals have no definition. Trouble is the layers I have to go through. As a result, the stitches don't always go through to the back and they are a bit bigger. Do I care, heck no!
It's not going to be in a competition and If someone wants to check, they can go right ahead. I personally think we can get too tied up with trying to achieve a higher standard that we can lose the enjoyment and forget the purpose.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sewing gifts

On Saturday we went for a lovely drive through the countryside and ended up in quaint Berry. This is an historic town a couple of hours south of Sydney and a favourite place for weekend shopping. This is the middle of winter here and can you tell what lovely weather we've been having? There's one patchwork shop and this is what I came out with . The bird fabric is starlings by Alexander Henry. There's also a fabulous toy shop and the best needlework shop.
This is what I've been up to, the strawberries are very quick and easy to make from the free pattern on the Moda Bakeshop blog.
I filled these with silica sand, I didn't have any turnovers so used 5 3/4" squares and cut them once on the diagonal and that makes two. They'll make nice little gifts for friends.
I made the little gift bags from another pattern at the Bakeshop as well.
I have an idea to put some small gifts in these bags for my granddaughters. I changed the pattern in a couple of places by trimming down the top seam and top stitching the pleat in place. I also sewed fabric sleeves for the bottom insert instead of taping fabric to card. I used template plastic instead.
I'm not good at shopping, I'm a failure really, it gives me a headache but the exception is when I shop for birthday gifts for the little ones.
Only a grandmother would fork out and buy something like this. It's probably what I would have loved as a little girl, all sparkly and twirly and pretty.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Still appliqueing

Could you believe there was a pair of scissors missing from this photo? Do you think its a sickness to still want more? I know every pair intimately and when DH says "why do you need another pair of scissors?" I just look sweetly at him and say "for the same reason you need another torch, one for every job!" Oh ok, now he gets it, lol.
See that teeny tiny pair of snips in the middle, they are airline approved but I'm always too shy to sew on flights. I don't like being looked at. And how about this guy? I think I should make a pincushion to go with him.
I've already chosen and prepped my fabrics for my third block of the Mary Mannakee quilt.
Here's block two all done, I just can't leave this project alone at the moment. I'm sure I'll slow down, I'm just keen at the moment. I think it's because I'm going on holiday soon and I don't think I'll be stitching much at all and I have to leave my applique at home so I'll just get a few weeks worth in before I go.
I was having a nice browse through this book today, well it's actually a catalogue of album quilts that went to Japan some years ago.
Now I really like this block on the bottom right and it might do for the MM as there are a couple of blocks I want to leave out of the original pattern.
Lovely quilts on every page.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Block one and loose ends

Mary Mannakee block one. Kathie and I are really enjoying exchanging ideas and talking fabrics and techniques with this project. We happened to love each others choice of fabrics so ended up doing pretty much the same. The order of appliqueing the flowers with the yellow centers is a bit different and if I strike this again, I think I'll try her method. These blocks will finish at 16 inches. I haven't mentioned what I do with my threads when I start and finish so I'm tying up loose ends here. I don't want the knot when I start to be in the seam allowance, it could pop through or create a little lump.
On the top of the piece, I turn my work around and start under the applique and bring it up in the seam allowance. No knots on the back then.
When I finish off, I take two small stitches near the seam allowance.
Before pulling the needle all the way through, I take the needle through the loop that's formed,
and then take it through the second loop formed and then pull the needle through. Essentially, I'm going up through the first loop and down through the second. It makes no difference if you go down for the first and up through the second.
The last step is to take the needle through the layers to hide the loose end and cut the thread.This is a good way of not having loose threads on the back which may show through the background.
After showing my applique methods, I learned another tip from Cathie, no blog. Thanks for this Cathie. Remember me mentioning using a tiny bit of fray stop on the inner points as a last resort? Cathie told me that she uses basting glue here and there, it does the same thing and washes out. I like that so much better! Away with the fray stop!

I tried it out on these tight inner curves where I don't have much seam allowance and put it on while my freezer template was still attached. Then I smeared it around with the end of this manicure stick. It works a treat. If you click on my photos to get close ups, the white you sometimes see is just my marking pencil which will wash completely out.

Cathy over at Cabbage quilts is blogging on her applique methods. Jan from Bemused and Juliann from lining up my stitches are having fun with red and green too. Go visit if you haven't already.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Going round in circles

For the last part of my little venture into explaining my needle turn applique, I'll try to show you how I tackle those curves and round shapes. Sorry the colours are not good in this photo, all these circles were needle turned in this quilt.

First, an oval shape is done with the same method. Make sure your s.a is small, like 1/8" otherwise you'll have to cope with a lot of pleats. Turn under with the needle or damp toothpick only a stitch or two ahead, no more. In applique, your thumb that is holding the fabric is your best friend and kept close to where the stitch comes out. This gives you a lot of control.

Sometimes, I use the shaft of the toothpick near its point to roll under the s.a and smooth it out. In that case, I sort of lift the s.a up a little with the toothpick rather than just trying to shove it under with the point. The toothpick is great for smoothing out by running it backwards and forwards to smooth things out. Gentle is the way to go.

Reverse applique is no more difficult than with the piece on the top. The lavender is under the purple.
For inside curves only, clip all the way around. I use the shaft of the toothpick ahead of where I want to stitch and pull under the s.a towards me then hold it in place with my left thumb.

I don't clip outside curves, it just isn't necessary or desirable.
There is one small exception and that's when I'm doing a circle.

See where I'm making a small cut on the bias of the fabric, to the left of that cut is my starting point. This circle is 3/4" I do like the circle templates so I'm only doing it this way to show you.
The trick is to only be concerned about the next stitch, don't worry past that. Again, an 1/8" s.a.

I use the needle tip to turn only the s.a one stitch in front of me. The s.a is turned under and towards me, like I am fanning it. I've tried to show a diagram here. Remember, one stitch at a time.
Now comes the tricky bit, the last stitch or two. Don't panic, turn it under with that toothpick or needle tip and smooth it out. That cut you make at the beginning is what makes this part easier because you don't have some big pleat to try and arrange. Be gentle with those s.a's.
Whew, it's so hard trying to explain things by writing it down. I hope some of my methods have helped or encouraged you.
Must be time for chocolate. This is my attempt at playing domestic goddess today.

You just know these ingredients are going to taste good together. My little soapbox rant is how the food companies are reducing the weight of ingredients while still charging the same price. As though we don't notice! Looky here, a 250g (8oz) block of chocolate is now 200g. As if I wouldn't notice that.

No Bake Chocolate Hazelnut slice.
Delicious, special treat and full of calories. You want the recipe don't you? It freezes well, that's if it lasts.
125 g (4 oz) butter
3/4 cup condensed milk
2 tablespoons golden syrup
250 g (8oz) pkt plain biscuits, finely crushed
1 cup flaked almonds
250 g (8 oz) block hazelnut chocolate.
60 g (2oz) vegetable shortening (copha is our brand)
Melt together butter, golden syrup and condensed milk in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened, careful it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pot.
Place biscuit crumbs and almonds into a bowl, add melted ingredients and mix well.
Press into a paper lined slice pan ( mine is about 11" x 7 1/2") Refrigerate while preparing topping.
Combine chocolate and vegetable shortening in a pot and stir over low heat until melted.
Pour chocolate mix over base and refrigerate until set.
Cut into small squares when firm.
I don't think you get golden syrup in America in which case use a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar. Gee now what to do with the rest of that second block of chocolate? I suppose you could get away with the one block. Nah!
P.S go here to see the New Zealand ad about Cadbury's chocolate. Palm oil is used in their product which is what comes from the amazon rain forests. I'm switching product after finding this out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A most excellent week.

I had a fabulous stitching day with friends this week and asked if I could show some of their projects so here they are. This cute stitchery cot quilt was a kit, sorry I don't have the information on it.
This quilt is very old but to my friend's credit, she's not letting it be a UFO and is doing lots of hand quilting on this. Colours are not true sorry. It's really a musky pink. Check out the bears, more stitchery and yet to have more quilting on it.
Since I live south of Sydney, I don't often go North of Sydney but since it was a nice day and DH is on holidays, we decided to go for a drive about an hour and a half up from us.

First stop was Cottage Quiltworks in Biloga which was the featured shop on Sewn. The fabrics were to die for, lots of ranges and the ladies were ultra friendly, sorry no photos. There was an exciting class going on in the back room with Sue Ross, wish I could've joined in. On the way home we stopped at Material Obsession, another friendly lot of ladies welcomed us there and we saw the next Sue Ross block of the month being packed up. Nice fabrics were being laid out. I never noticed the scissors on the roof until I loaded this photo.
What struck me was the eclectic fabrics and big bold prints you don't see anywhere else.
Of course lots of Kaffe Fassetts.
The rest of the week I've been doing some blocks, nothing too exciting, some stars.
and some baskets, still loving doing them.
And surprises in the mail. Look what Jean made me, the pear pincushion is made with linen and fabulous pear fabric, her signature is all about pears. It has pride of place on my sewing table.

Rush over to see Jean at Linen and Raspberry if you want to go in the draw to win one and she is also giving away a most elegant needlecase with it.
I don't want this post to be a book so I'll post about those applique curves soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Applique, stems and leaves

I love the Clover bias maker for stems and starch a piece of fabric before I cut the bias strips. You can also see that I use a wave blade in an old rotary cutter to cut the backgrounds to size to prevent any unravelling while working with the block. The long tweezers are invaluable for placing the applique pieces in position under my vinyl overlay. Here's my pattern on the light table with the background fabric over the top. I like to place my stems by putting small dots of basting glue on the background an then placing the stem over the top. If leaf points have to go under the stems, I'll sew those in first then the stem.
Onto leaves and coping with the outer points. These two leaves have to meet in the middle. When a leaf point needs to meet a stem or be placed pretty precisely like these, I will start close to the bottom of the leaf on the right and get that bottom side and point stitched first that way I know it will be placed just where I want it.
Where the two leaves meet in the middle, I sometimes put a connecting stitch back into the first leaf I sewed, at the point.
In this photo you can see where I started stitching as I have just explained. I like to take two stitches to secure the point before I turn it under. Note where the pin is located, putting it there until those two stitches are in means the point won't float off to the left. Remove it as soon as the point is secured.
There's only so much fabric that can fit under that point and I do try to make it as flat as I can.
I fold the leaf back and trim out as much of the excess as I can. If you click on the photo, you can see it better. I am cutting off a little triangle of fabric at an angle.
I never needle turn this point, there's only so many times you get to do this before you get into trouble with fraying so out comes a dampened toothpick. ( put it in your mouth)
Look at where I hold it, I'm going to grab that seam allowance in the middle and sweep it away and under from the point in one movement, I then finger press it in place with the thumb of my left hand.
The second movement with the toothpick is to push the seam allowance into the leaf but not try to push it up into the point. Like I said, there's only so much fabric that will fit under there.
Don't worry about the rest of the leaf at this point. Give alittle tug on the thread to pull out the point and take a couple of stitches down the side and carry on stitching the leaf. The tooth pick is a great tool for turning under the fabric.
The other alternative to the toothpick that I sometimes use, because I still have them in my hand, is the point of the scissors. Its amazing how much control these will give you.
In these photos, see how much seam allowance I have, it's very small, only 1/8" - 3/16" A seam allowance of 1/4" is too hard in my opinion to turn under without getting into trouble with peaks and bulk.
If you are the sort of person who likes to learn visually, , try this DVD from Piece o' Cake. It is very detailed with close up shots and covers just about everything you'll need to know. There is also a book that accompanies it.
I'll show a little reverse applique and small curves next time we meet. Until then, take care.