Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Disco

I'm doing a little disco happy dance here because January's Jaybird Mini Quilt Club pattern was one I'd been waiting to try ever since I signed up with Fabric Garden. 

Once again, I love how these little beauties can all be made from the scraps in my fabric stash. Oops, what does that say about the size of my stash?!?


Disco balls, walls of flashing lights, bling and colour (lots of it!) These images danced in my head as I delved into my scrap box and cut out all the tiny pieces, in readiness for another miniquiltathon at Di B's house.


This is how they looked, laid out on the day. 


There are a lot of pieces in this mini quilt - 180 to be exact!


The back of the quilt shows how I simply ditch stitched around each lozenge shape. My plan was not to flatten the individual faceted units by covering them with too much quilting.


I loved making this little quilt, but have to admit that binding such a tiny treasure, especially those chevron patterned edges, gave me a little grief.


I looked at my finished binding for a few days, but finally I could bear it no more and I unpicked the single fold binding and replaced it with double fold.


It's still imperfect, but I can cope with it.


I don't see too many outings in this little quilt's future because it's destined to join my other Jaybird minis on my sewing room wall.

But it was rather fun to take it out for a photo shoot around my neighbourhood. 

Pegging my mini Disco quilt to the wire fence certainly attracted some attention.


- or was it perhaps my happy dancing?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Blues

Blues, aquas, teals, turquoises. I delved deep into my scrap bin for all the summer sea and sky shades I could find to make this quilt.


Ever since I first saw what clever Nicole Dacsiewicz had done with the humble hexagon I've wanted to try it for myself.

With the help of her easy-to-follow Modern Hexagon tutorial I made this.


But I didn't stop there.

I tweaked my hexies by rolling back those edges and slip stitching them down, so now they look like stars. Or starfish, as one of my Instagram friends described them :-)


I like the secondary pattern that's happening here now, don't you?

If you think they're a little like Cathedral Windows, you're right! I've been spending some time lately researching Cathedral Windows variations in the hope of coming up with a reasonably simple technique I can teach at St Mark's Quilters sometime.


Perhaps I've found it?


It was so refreshing to work with these cool, calm shades for a couple of weeks.

At the year's send I had staggered across the line, weary, grumpy, over-committed and emotionally fragile, and I needed time out. My friends probably needed time out from me too :-)


So, for a week I enjoyed a 'staycation' at home. I stitched, cleaned out some cupboards, caught up with my paperwork, and walked Chester the WonderLab.

With a little photo editing of this sign from the park across the road, you can get the picture :-)


I also decided to make a couple of changes that might give me more balance in my life, and I chose my Word for 2015 - Balance.


As every quilter knows, creating beautiful quilts can be wonderfully therapeutic, and giving them away can be equally heartwarming.

Di B and I recently delivered 70 Blankets of Love, made by St Mark's Quilters, to Dahlia Brigham (Volunteer Co-ordinator) at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Nursery.

It was only a short visit, but crammed with joyfulness.


For a start, as the three of us were jostling to take turns of getting photos of each other with the quilts in the foyer, a young, very pregnant mum offered to take the photo so the three of us could be in the shot together.

We got talking, as you do, and discovered that her bub (number 5) was due in just 2 weeks. She looked so serene, waiting for her husband to pick her up after her final check up. She smiled as she told us she was having a little girl, and we were full of admiration when she calmly revealed that her 4th child, a little boy, had Downs Syndrome.

This lovely young mum really made an impression on us.


Inside the nursery Dahlia introduced us to some of the staff and nurses on duty that morning, including midwife Jan Polverino who, with her sister Shirley, a quilter, started the whole Blankets of Love venture back in 1992. The concept has since spread worldwide. I was so excited to meet her! Too excited, apparently, to get a photo with her.

Finally, on our way out, we passed this wonderful, whimsical fiberglass sculpture, decorated by Penny Lovelock, part of a fundraising venture by Taronga Zoo to save wild rhinos. Called "Beauty and Hope", it's painted with Javan fabric designs and of course depicts a baby rhino ("Hope") in utero.


We left the hospital with huge smiles on our faces. As always.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The good, the bad and the ugly

Yesterday was Twelfth Night, and as I packed away my Christmas decorations for another year I thought back over a particularly turbulent December.
There was much to smile about.
A pre-Christmas family wedding gave me the opportunity to have a happy snap taken with my lovely mother and sister
For the third year in a row I enjoyed the privilege of an Access All Areas pass to photograph Sydney's Carols in the Domain for my friend Robyn's (Event Founder's) personal collection. This was my stage side view of The Wiggles, Captain Feathersword and Henry the Octopus!
This beautiful girl arrived home after three years working in the USA and Botswana. 
For the first time since 2010 all of my precious children, my daughters-in-law and my grandchildren were here for Christmas.
My sister and I had a little bit of fun on Christmas Day too. In the past we've been known to turn up in the same outfit, quite unplanned, as we have very similar tastes in our clothes and shop the same favourite online shop. 
When we recently discovered we both owned the same top, but in different colours, we decided to wear them on Christmas Day, with identical white pants. To complete the picture we both pinned the sequined felt Christmas trees I had made for us, in different colour ways, a few years ago.
Not at all fun was the mercy dash I had to make to the vet with Chester after he ate a 485gram box of Lindt chocolate balls, wrappers and all, six days before Christmas. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, and can kill them.
Fortunately Chester is large, and had eaten an assortment of milk, dark and white chocolates so he hadn't ingested too much theobromine, the chemical found in highest concentrations in dark chocolate and cooking chocolate.
 An hour after an injection to make him very sick indeed he skipped out of the surgery with an empty stomach, completely recovered, though my bank account might take a little longer. I'm still learning not to leave food where my sensitive-nosed pooch can reach it, even if it is wrapped and sealed.
Here's my naughty boy, as we were about to leave for the vet. He must have had a very sore tummy!
Sydney's Martin Place is usually the centre of our city's enchanting Christmas decorations, a giant tree covered in winking fairy lights and swathed in electronic banners. Families make the trip into town and children gaze, open-mouthed, at the magical scene.
This year Martin Place became famous for another, very ugly, reason. Just ten days before Christmas an extremist gunman took seventeen customers and staff hostage in the Lindt Cafe as morning coffees were being dispensed. The very ordinariness of these circumstances rocked us, and for sixteen hours our city held it's breath as surrounding offices were evacuated and riot police stood by.
The waiting game ended suddenly, around 2am the next morning, when the gunman shot and killed the manager of the cafe, Tori Johnson, and after a loud exchange of gunfire between the riot police and the gunman he and another hostage, solicitor Katrina Dawson, were shot dead and the rest fled, terrified, to safety.
The next morning the flower tributes started, just a few at first, propped up against nearby office buildings. But soon the outpouring of public grief gathered momentum and it was not long before a huge area of the top end of Martin Place was covered in a fragrant carpet of flowers, candles, soft toys, cards and messages, particularly to the two families who had lost loved ones.
Everyone wanted to surround these families, and those of the surviving hostages, with love. 
Quilter Joshua Helms (under his pseudonym Molli Sparkles) wasted no time mobilizing the worldwide quilting community to make 5inch hashtag blocks, and the response has been nothing short of amazing, with more than a thousand blocks having arrived by New Year, and many more since.
Batting, backings and longarm quilting services have been donated, and the plan is to make as many quilts as possible from these little 5 inch rainbow coloured blocks, initially for Tori Johnson's parents and partner, and for Katrina Dawson's husband and three young children.
Hashtag blocks have arrived from Germany, the USA, Alaska, the UK and all over Australia, and I'm proud to be able to play a small part in Molli's heartwarming initiative by making up these hashtag blocks.
Di B has been particularly industrious and made twenty!
All the details, including the time frame for this venture, are here.
As you've seen from my previous post, when compassionate quilters work together we can do great things!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Quilts in the Church

What better season can there be than Christmas, when we celebrate Gods great love for us, to festoon our church with quilts, gifts of love made by St Mark's Quilters.


These larger, crib sized quilts, will soon be off to the KU Marcia Burgess Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre at Liverpool where each little boy or girl will be given one of our quilts when they start there this year.


I love how our quilts look with such a beautiful backdrop!



Then there are the Blankets of Love, around 60cm square, each destined to one day wrap around a tiny baby in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit.


Some of these bubs will be struggling to live. But some will not have survived their birth, and the quilt will either go with them when their parents say goodbye, or become a keepsake, a lasting memory of their precious little baby.


Either way, these grieving parents will know that a quilter at St Mark's cared enough to stitch love into a quilt especially to comfort them.


We hung up to nine quilts on each sandstone column, suspended by their corners, and the overall effect was amazing. 


With fresh flowers up in the sanctuary, red bows on the pew ends, and a glittering Christmas tree beside the font, the church looked incredibly beautiful, all dressed for Christmas.


Here's how it looked later that evening, as the choir processed in to our Carols Service by candlelight singing "Once in Royal David's City".


But it was when the lights were turned on that our quilts really shone.



Our quilters choose their own colour combinations from the stash of appropriate fabrics we've collected, even sometimes adding fabrics from their own stashes to achieve the end result. What you don't see, though, is the metres and metres of batting that goes inside  our quilts, something that would be very expensive indeed if our quilters had buy their own.

We like to think of this cuddly inner layer as the heart of our quilts, making them soft and comforting.

Ever since we began, the members of Rotary Inner West have given us a generous donation towards our batting each year, for which we're incredibly grateful. 

While the quilts were hanging in the church Di B and I invited President Fay Thurlow, along with Sandra Bloxham, member of the Board of Directors, for a private tour to see the quilts hanging in St Mark's, followed by morning tea in the church garden. 


We were delighted that they presented us with a cheque, in memory of a member of our church family, Peter Crooks, who was also a member of Rotary Inner West and passed away in September. Peter was very supportive of the ministry of St Mark's Quilters, so it was quite an emotional occasion for us all.


This year we hope to keep on encouraging our keen group of quiltmakers to keep trying out new quilting techniques as they develop their creativity and, at the same time, bring a warm quilty hug to those who need it.

We love because God first loved us.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Australia Flair

It was a combination that fired my imagination in a way I'd never been moved before in my quiltmaking journey: two pristine fat quarter bundles of Emma Jean Jansen's Terra Australis (my favourite fabric range of 2014), the Quick Curve ruler, and the Quiltcon Panasonic  Bias Tape Challenge.

Today I'd like to share with you my second Quiltcon entry, 'Australia Flair', a quilt I hope conveys the sunshine, warmth and celebration that is our Australian summer.

The challenge brief was simple, to create a quilt using appliquéed handmade bias tape as the main design element. 

I started by using my Quick Curve Ruler to cut out plain white quadrants which would be my main shapes.

As a lover of appliqué I've been using Clover Bias Makers for many years, and from my collection I chose the 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch and 1 inch sizes. I pressed open one folded edge of the 1 inch wide bias which was eventually taken up in the seam allowance when I sewed my arcs into blocks

After marking the arcs on my quadrants, I initially used tiny dots of Roseanne's Glue Baste-It to hold my strips in place. However I soon decided I was more comfortable with hand tacking the strips, ready to machine appliqué them using Auriful Invisible thread.


I tried to graduate the shades diagonally across my quilt, from warm to cool, and on the white space in the middle I 'tossed' a multi-coloured streamer. This was meant to be a party quilt, after all.

I used a double-batt, this time Australia's finest Matilda's Own wool/poly on top, combined with Quilter's Dream Poly Request, to ensure a nice thick base for my free motion machine quilting, and a resistance to fold lines in case Australia Flair had to travel.


As you can imagine, a quilt that thick needed LOTS of pins to ensure all those layers didn't move!


Confident that my pinning would hold the layers, I flew in the face of convention (what a rebel I am!) and began by quilting the arc blocks on my Bernina 1230 domestic machine, and using Aurifil Mako 50 threads in white 2024, leaving the central area until last. To be truthful, this was because I hadn't yet decided how I was going to quilt that part.



After all those feathery shapes, in the end I went for simple twin-stitched cross-hatching, to rest the eye but still give plenty of texture.


'Australia Flair' is my first serious competition quilt, so I washed, pegged out and blocked it carefully so it would hang straight, especially necessary with all that bulk. 

Then I auditioned 2 1/4 inch wide strips for the multicolored binding until I decided on this combination that continued the graduated colour story right out to the edges.


Here you can see the binding machined on before I trimmed back the batting and backing to half an inch from the stitching line. I like a well-stuffed binding!


Did you notice those flapping tails on the corner of my quilt in the pic above? My previous attempts at machined mitred binding corners have ended in frustration and tears, but I was determined to master this method which leaves no binding tails to join along an edge. All the joins are within the neatly stitched mitred corners, or at least that's the theory!  

Woohoo! It worked!


I've loved every minute spent making this quilt but, like Happy, my other Quiltcon entry, Australia Flair won't be making the trip to Austin, Texas.

I'm not the only quilter who assumed that, as long as an entry in the Panasonic Bias Tape Challenge met the competition criteria, it stood a reasonable chance of being accepted. 


As well, I had reason to think that Australia Flair was one of a reasonably small pool of entries. A search of the Instagram hashtag #biastapechallenge and #panasonicbiastapechallenge comes up with entries by just six quilters, myself included. Clearly there must have been lots more Bias Tape Challenge quilts not shared on social media.


I was a little sad that it wasn't juried into the Quiltcon exhibition and, having put so much work into the creation of Australia Flair, the dust of disappointment clung to me just a little longer than it did with Happy. 

But I've brushed myself down, pulled on my big-girl panties and accepted that what will be will be.


Come February, though, when so many of my online quilting friends are meeting up in Austin, Texas, sharing photos of the fun on Instagram and getting to see in real life the magnificent quilts that made the cut, I'm sure I'll discover one or two of those pesky little grains still stuck in my shoe, and once again wish that, if I couldnt be at Quiltcon, at least Australia Flair might have gone.