Tuesday 26 March 2013

Feather Borders

I am continuing my practice of various feather designs...

Several other things have fallen by the wayside...need to still complete the write up of the pattern of my baby quilt, do the binding on my table runner, write up a new pattern that I have ready to go, continue on....and so it goes. Also have run behind in the Blockbase Sew Along due to illness when block  #10 was due and just have not had the time to pick it up again.

FMQ requires practice, practice and more practice...you read and hear this a lot. What does that actually mean and how do you go about this? I was thinking this weekend that it is more than that, i.e. it is purposeful practice that will eventually help you to master this skill. When pondering about this I thought back to how this more purposeful practice started for me. About 2 years ago I was visiting the local quilt show and again standing in front of one of those truly amazing works of art...a FMQ wholecloth quilt of enormous proportions...all done on the domestic sewing machine. I could do some basic FMQ at that stage...some stippling, some loop and leaf designs, but that was it. While admiring this I began to think that yes, this is possible and no, I did not need a more fancy machine or the seductive Handi Quilter machine Sweet Sixteen (that I soooo would love to have).

The problem for me was that I would spent up to 6 months on creating a quilt (alas, I also have to work in my spare time) and when it came to the quilting I would revert back to what was comfortable, i.e. the stippling or similarly simple designs. Any attempt to do something different required more skill than I had at that time and even if I practiced a different design, after 6 months  I did not have the flow or rhythm to see that through. Usually I ended up pretty discouraged going back to what I knew would work. It occurred to me that I needed to take the whole idea of practice to a new level. It required more than just a bit of practice here and there or even attending the occasional workshop...it needed to be the purposeful building of your repertoire of designs and capabilities.

Initially I was going to set myself tasks to complete to guide my practice, but luck had it and I saw Leah Day's FMQ Along Wednesdays on the Freemotion Quilting Project which was run for the entire year on a weekly basis. I participated almost every week and within 2-3 months saw the difference...no more tension issues, far less hesitation...the improvement was actually quite amazing. I could just sit down at the machine and go...

Also started my feather practice last year....very tentative to start with but eventually got there. This year I am focussing on feathers...for this purpose I got some of Patsy Thompson's Feather DVDs which I am currently going through. I find  that DVDs and videos work well for me as I can go back and re-watch particularly tricky parts (have a look around the internet, there are heaps of free YouTube videos available).

Well, I continued on my border practice piece....this got a bit involved as I did end up practising the mirrored feather wave I had stitched the other day. I was just too curious of how I would go with trying to mirror the plumes on either part of the centre...probably should have continued with something a bit simpler.

My stitching and the shapes turned out a bit wonky as I could not concentrate on too many things at once. The mirroring of the plumes worked fine as I had worked out beforehand an approximate way to go about it, i.e. start smaller, than getting bigger and then going smaller again to go around the curve. As I am working in a border the outer edge provided a guide of how far to swing out, so this was all good. Funny thing though...the brain made the same 'mistake' each time I went around the outer curve. The mirroring in the centre was a bit trickier...I thought I had done this quite well, but when I went around to fill them, realised that only two of them actually match...so if I was to do this again, I would have to pay a bit more attention to this, but overall... first attempt...I am impressed. To get around the trickiness of the centre I would lightly mark them in next time, I think.

The second border is a nice one...I am thinking about using this for my quilt...it has that simple elegance about it and was quite fast to stitch all around. Also did the loopy border for those more narrow borders...find this very challenging, although looks alright in the picture.

This was a lot of fun to stitch...I think it's time to go onto the quilt.

Linking up to Anything Goes Linky Party at Stitch by Stitch and

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced to show that I am actually finishing some of my many WIPs.


Monday 25 March 2013

New Fabric

Can you ever have too much fabric?

I got a new Jelly Roll (Moda - Chateau Rouge/French General)

This is for a specific project (see...I am getting better, no hoarding here). I am planning to make a bag. Surfing the net I see so many cool bags that people seem to just whip up and lately I have really felt the need to make something for just me. I found this nice bag in one of the books I recently bought...no zippers, but some pockets on the outside and in terms of difficulty level, it does look quite manageable. Just have to purchase some background fabric to go with it. The strips would form the front and side pockets....

Actually I saw a workshop at my local sewing shop the other day where they make a bag with  zippers on the inside and outside as well as on top for closing the bag...I am thinking of putting my name down because I have not much of an idea on how to do this and it would be a useful skill to have...will have to enquire about this.


Thursday 21 March 2013

WIP #3: Baby Quilt finished

Finally...the baby quilt is finished. Bound, washed and blocked...all done

Came out very crinkly, but I like the feel of it. What a saga. Felt compelled to redo it as the zebra fabric was the wrong way around...while a bit of a hassle, I am glad I have done it, because I would have cringed every time I looked at it if I did not correct this.


Monday 18 March 2013

More Feathers

Yep, this is shaping up to be the year of the Feather for me...

I have been spoilt with some feather DVDs from Patsy Thompson for my birthday recently. Have to say they are very good and I am getting a lot out of it. Only a quilter can sit there listening to the rattling of the sewing machine on a DVD and be completely mesmerized...much to the amusement of the rest of the family.

Here are a few samples I made...

 Warm-up was interesting. Just went for it without much thinking...some of my plumes got a bit too large. Probably pays to think that through a bit beforehand.
Next sample I gave it my best shot and thought about how I wanted the plumes to look like beforehand. This worked well...actually did not try to achieve a consistent look but concentrated on getting around the corner in an orderly way. Not that easy judging the size of the plumes while you are stitching them, probably could have gone a bit bigger on some on them. Also wonder how I would go with staying consistent if I did this across half of a border, and then placing a mirror image on the other half of the border. I guess there is only one way of finding out...
Yes, and I think I have been bitten by Patsy Thompson's need to fill her plumes with hyperquilting. Tried one of her examples of just stitching some lines into them (did not look that exciting initially) and was amazed with how this transformed the look of the feather. I love this effect. I used Polyester thread to stitch this feather and the orange thread on top of the white just about jumps out at you. Yes, definitely hooked.

Very happy with this....I am getting more confident in the quilting of feathers having done two feather borders recently, each using a different method of quilting the feathers. The freeform feather above has a playfulness about it that I like and probably hard to believe,  I find this almost more difficult to stitch than the ones were I needed to backtrack. All comes down to practice, I suppose.

Why am I doing this??? ....I want to be able to use this on my Colour Adventure quilt in the outer border and as previously mentioned I prefer to do as little marking as possible (yep, I will practice for hours just to avoid this). Nothing too fancy, just a nice free flowing feather arrangement around  the border. I am planning to put another feather arrangement in the yellow star in the middle (that one will be definitely marked), some filler in the coloured section....and beyond, I am not sure yet. Bit of a loose plan so far.

Looking at the picture now after several weeks, I am thinking that I should have made the black border larger....maybe that's it...there was always something that was not quite right with this. Will ponder on this for a while...this quilt has taken me way out of my comfort zone. It is too bright, too many colours and I am not sure how this will all work out.

Linking up to Anything Goes Quilt & Sew over at Stitch by Stitch and Let's Get Acquainted Link by Plum and June Hosted by Busy Bee Quilts


Saturday 16 March 2013

FMQ Friday - Loops and More Loops

Finished quilting the baby quilt with my loop design

Bit hard to see, here is the back

I had a fair bit of bearding going on while doing the quilting. I used bamboo batting and while I think they have improved on it (it did quilt beautifully), this was a bit annoying.  In case you have not come across this... I used this nifty roller that we got from Ikea to clean up the fluff. All it is is a roll of sticky tape.  You run it over the surface and when all the sticky tape is taken up with fluff you just peel off that layer to reveal a new sticky layer. Ingenious ...we got this initially to get rid of the cat hair on our clothes...you can buy the refills in packets of six, I think...really cheap.

Another issue I thought I share...I had spoken about the pesky basting pins and that they often leave black marks if you leave them in too long. Well, given that this is a light background I took care to sort through my basting pins when I was putting it together, making sure I only used the newer ones...Well, another black mark where the pin held the fabric...(not really too bad, I had worse). This was happening literally in front of my eyes as I was quilting it and was the reason that I hurried this along a bit.
It occurred to me last night what this is all about...it was fairly hot over here when I was doing the quilting. Temperatures were in the high 30s and we were running the air conditioner just about non-stop. We have evaporative cooling and so with time, I reckon the humidity builds up to such an extent that the basting pins are literally rusting in front of your eyes! Need to make a mental note only to quilt dark stuff in summer. I wonder whether this would also happen with the use of Pinmoors and the regular pins...

Photo of the finished quilt coming up shortly.

Linking up to Leah Day's Freemotion Quilting Friday


Sunday 10 March 2013

Enforced Break

I think I have worn out my machine...

The other day when I was FMQ it made some strange clunking noises. I think it has to do with the speed...only seems to happen when I speed up and have been going for a while.

I thought I was  months off a service but when I had a look, I had it serviced exactly 1 year ago, so it is actually due for service. I hope there is nothing wrong with it, never had this happen before. But then, I also never before FMQ that much...so maybe it affects the internal workings of the machine.

Anyway, so the machine is off for a service. Here go my plans to make some in-road into my WIPs, UFOs etc given that we have a long weekend coming up. Obviously not going to happen.

However, I could clean up the sewing room or maybe a bit more tasky...baste my Colour Adventure quilt. This has completely thrown me out of whack. Maybe I pull out the old Brother machine for just piecing. Have not played with that for years (very basic model from a good 20 years ago).


Saturday 9 March 2013

FMQ Friday- Table Runner Finished

Finished my feather border design on my table runner. Absolutely loved doing this, although going around took a very long time. Almost has a meditative quality as you have to stitch it in a fairly slow and controlled manner.

Already posted about this on Wednesday but thought I share some more info about the FMQ. The border design was done using a stencil, hence it looks super even.

Yep, would be great if one could do this completely freehand. I want to practice more feathers in the near future on one of my other quilts and will have to do them freehand for that. I wonder whether I should draw in not only the spine but also a line at each side of the feathers. That would then give me a very defined area to work in. Mind you, chances are, I will not get my lines to match up  (ha, ha...). 

The feathers compacted my piece more than I thought they would and I then had some puffiness in the blocks. That certainly put a spanner in the works as I had been so focussed on the feathers that I did not really think much about the blocks. In the end I decided to embellish the blocks with simple line designs. The trick here was to get all the lines on the white fabric as consistent as I could...that way some wonkiness in the printed fabric was hardly noticeable.

While ok, I still think there is something missing. It seems to need more of something, but I am not sure what else one could do with this block. Thought about doing some filling of the white patches, however this is fraught with difficulties, as it will make the shadowing of the seams underneath really noticeable.

Anyway, this piece was all about the feathers. All that's left now is the binding unless I come up with some other brilliant idea (and I might given that I keep staring at it all the time).

Linking up to FMQ Friday on the Freemotion Quilting Project with Leah Day.


Wednesday 6 March 2013

WIP Wednesday: Progress

Made some progress this week. Here is my table runner

Will post more detailed FMQ shots about this one on Friday. While nice, it lacks a bit of planning, i.e. I should have thought more about the quilting of the actual blocks. Border is beautiful but I was left wondering what to do with the blocks (which ultimately produced some unevenness in the quilting...hmm, maybe I should have used a filler design over the blocks...

And here is me hard at work on my baby quilt. Have decided on a loopy - loop design . In order to keep me focussed I had to have my drawing of the design next to me the whole time just to refer to the scale of the design and also to check every now and then in which direction I was going.  Loops are easy to stitch, however I don't find it that easy to fill up an area with any level of consistency. I am aiming for a scale of about an inch over a 3 - 4in area, so have to have a fair bit of speed to make those more sweeping kinds of movements. Very easy to then get lost in it all and end up too close or between some loops. So far, so good...half way through

Linking up to  WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced. (guest hosted by Claire from Sewing Over Pins)


Monday 4 March 2013

WIP #3: Baby quilt

Pressing ahead...

Worked out what I want to do for my baby quilt in terms of all-over design

 Had to draw this a couple of times to experiment with the size. Now this does not look very difficult but loops can be tricky. Easy to back yourself in a corner when you are going the wrong direction. I am aiming for a scale of about 1 in circles spread over a 3in space.

Tested this on the fabric. Initially I was going to use light orange thread but I decided to go with cream. The quilt top is busy enough and the light orange will show any little irregularity in roundness of the loops and compete with the blocks. I think I will go for the blend in effect...


Saturday 2 March 2013

FMQ - Beautiful Feathers

As you can see I am hopping from one project to the next...well there is some method to this madness.

Firstly, I am not keen on leaving those basting pins in for too long on my white table runner. 
They leave pretty big holes as it is and are well used...I have had marks from them in the past when I have taken my time with the quilting. Next quilt show I will look for those Pinmoors!

Secondly, I am in need of practice before I let myself loose on an all-over design for my baby quilt.
So I decided to continue on my table runner with a feather border. As usual, this took me ages to work out...I used a commercial stencil, however did not have a corner element, so I had to draw one in. No particular reason as to why I used a commercial stencil other than that I had one handy and it had the wavy-ness that I wanted. It would have taken me ages to get a consistent wavy line across the length of the runner (I need to get one of those flexible curvy rulers). Must say I do not enjoy marking a quilt and definitely do not enjoy making a stencil fit a particular space. Bit of a challenge to get that consistent. In the end it was ..."close enough is good enough".

I think I prefer doing feathers freehand, maybe just having a wavy line to follow as I believe you develop a bit of a style of your own with feathers. Having done a freehand feather border not so long ago, it felt strange following these pre-drawn feathers. Mind you all good practice.

Here is a bit of a look...I am approximately half way through...I am using Aurifil 50/2 thread (love this thread), backtracking over the top of every alternate feather. I am taking my time and apart from a few glitches here and there it is going really well.

Absolutely love the look of this. I really enjoy doing feathers...actually going a bit through a feather phase at the moment. Very pleased with my efforts, I think it sets the blocks off really nicely. This is exactly how I had visualized this project...ha, ha, that does not happen that often!
Should have this finished by next week.

Linking up to Leah Day's Freemotion Quilting Friday.


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