Saturday 31 December 2016

Best Of 2016 Linky Party

Meadow Mist Designs is running a Best of 2016 Linky party. There are several options but I think I will simply go for my favourites and a bit of an overview of the year.

My year has been very successful overall. I decided early in the year to participate in the FAL 2016 and that got me going on my outstanding projects. Here is the first finish for the year

Cindy Needham's stencils had arrived over Christmas and I was off playing with them which actually continued for the rest of the year. As many of you would know if you read my blog, I spend about 70% of my time researching, trying new things, playing with gadgets and generally expanding my skill level and knowledge...often with very little to show for it as I get so easily sidetracked 😁
Started on my Wholecloth...and incorporated the stencils into that...this project took about 5 months to complete.
In the meantime I finished a project very close to my heart from 2012, a quilt I used during Leah Day's Freemotion Quilting Wednesday...this is where the obsession started with FMQ. I only had the binding left to complete and while the FMQ is nowhere near the level it is at now, there was something really special about finishing this off. Love this quilt!
The Mandala came next. I completed the Mandala using Cindy Needham's stencils to design and draft the Mandala (this took me ages to do!!!). The Mandala was for a challenge that the SA Quilter's guild had set. It turned out great, except in retrospect I had wished I had used lighter thread to make the stitching more pronounced.
The highlight of the year came next for me. Total Wholecloth did win First Place in the Small Quilts category. I was so impressed with this, considering that I completed this Wholecloth as a bit of a practice challenge to myself. While the quilt took many months to complete and looks somewhat crazy in terms of the intensity of the stitching, I must say, this was one of the most relaxing projects I had done in a while.
Recently also completed the quilt below. Not my favourite, but a nice design overall. I used Cindy Needham's Ultimate Shape to complete the quilting and duly got sidetracked into experimenting with those stencils.
Below is my absolute favourite quilt for the year. Designed by Shannon Brinkley and called 'Drifting Leaves'. I had won the fabric and the Aurifil thread...really enjoyed the quilt and the quality of the fabric...a joy to complete. To spice things up a bit I decided to quilt wavy lines allover, something I had wanted to try for a while. This was not FMQ, but done with one of the machine stitches...had a lot of fun doing this and it turned out absolutely great.
 Apart from all this, I spent hours designing...

...and recently also worked out how to draw on my Ipad.

As you can see I do jump all over the place...there are just too many things to explore and try out and my passion is FMQ.

Next post will be about my new Ruler foot 😆 It's a wonder I get anything finished actually.

Plans for the new year...hmm...2 Wholecloth quilts! Should be interesting to see what happens with my plans. Maybe my word for the new year should be 'Focus'. Nah...

Wishing all a Very Happy and Creative New Year!


Saturday 17 December 2016

Design Process

I have not been blogging lately due to general hectic around this time of year. Layer that with getting distracted easily, a good dose of a migraine the other day and the annoying mess that had mysteriously spread out in my sewing room.

I have been FMQ my Bethanne Nemesh 'bird wall hanging' over the last few weeks, however half way through I thought it would be fun to start the design process on my next wholecloth.

For this wholecloth I thought that I put into practice what was demonstrated in a class that I attended earlier in the year run by Claudia Pfeil. In terms of designing I have to emphasize that this is only one of the many ways that one can design a wholecloth. In this class we worked from the center out. Basically you have your main design in the middle and then throw some borders around until you reach your desired size. In doing so you would use a select number of FMQ designs, use echoing and mirroring of design elements until you reach a visually pleasing arrangement. Easier said than done.

I did not want to repeat what we had done in class so I used one of the designs that I had drafted previously on Cindy Needham's Ultimate Shape and decided to use a diagonal layout. I start my first draft on paper and while this must appear painful for some, it is the only way for me to get my head around dimensions, how big I want the design to be, where to start the next border and how big the quilt top will end up. In this case I used Cindy Needham's Ultimate Stencils for orientation, first the Circle one to put a simple outline around the little drawn design and then I overlaid this with the Square Stencil to put the surrounding borders in. This worked fantastically and I now had a workable model. The stencils are enormously helpful.
As you can see I went it a bit overboard with the borders just doodling away. This looks laborious and it is, but for me this is a very important process...while I am doodling, I am thinking this through, i.e. what will this look like quilted? what will recede and what will come to the foreground? More often than not I do not get this right as you can see in the example, and the design will just fizzle out into mindless doodle as I already know that I will have to do this again. I would usually do this again several times until I feel I have got it right.

I have done some exploration around drawing on the computer and while I can get the basic motif and a general outline happening in my drawing program (which is useful to work out some sizing), I cannot draw the fillers to this level of detail with the basic drawing program that I have on the computer. Carla Barrett has some useful blog posts about designing wholecloth quilts digitally using a tablet...that got me a bit interested, however I do not have one of those and I certainly do not want to spend more money on yet another electronic device. Carla uses a tablet PC and Photoshop Elements. Maybe at some stage...for now, I have my Ipad, so I started to do some exploration around this. I have several drawing apps for the Ipad which I use to practice FMQ designs, nothing fancy, just a bit of doodling. When I was at the shops the other day I bought a decent pen for the Ipad. As it was, I also downloaded the Adobe Draw app and Adobe Capture (initially really clueless what I would use Adobe Capture for).

And then I started drawing...easy to use and the possibilities opened up. Some examples:
Planning my feather on a photo of the quilt top. This was useful as it gave me a bit of an idea of what shape to use in what section.

Next came a surprising fun design
Filled my little previously drawn design with colour. Really quite like this...could use the Accuquilt shapes that I have to construct an Applique design like this. You can see I did not get the border size right. In the App you just drag the shape out with a pinch and that is a bit fiddly at first, but the name of the game is not accuracy here. This is just to get a bit of an idea what this would look like and for that it does the job.

Then I tackled the wholecloth...haha, and worked out what that Capture app is for. With the capture app I was able to photograph my little design (which I had previously drawn out on the computer as the motif has to be accurate for later tracing). The motif then could be magically saved into the Library which I could then use in the Draw app.  This is how I got my center motif on the Ipad (as I was not going to draw that again!). From there I just placed borders around it and started filling them with FMQ designs.
I went into a lot of detail to see how difficult this was going to be. While the Ipad screen is somewhat limiting (had to zoom in and out all the time), it definitely is possible to add a lot of detail. A bigger screen would be better, i.e. a tablet, however depends really what you are going to use this for. For my purposes this is quite ok as it will give me a picture of what this could look like. Accuracy is similarly not important, as I am not going to use this picture as a template. The actual planning around this wholecloth in terms of sizes of the borders will be relatively easy to be worked out once I decide on how many borders and what fillers I want. The centre motif is already drawn up...just needs a bit of a tidy up. While initially awkward to draw on the screen I was getting the hang of it at the end. Had a bit of a laugh, this wholecloth looks suspiciously like the last one...had to do the grids, even on the Ipad. Just love doing that. Did not finish it ...the last border will be a feather frame, but my juice ran out.

Also played with 1/8 of a slice of a wholecloth...another way of designing a wholecloth. As the app has layers, it is relatively easy to draw your 1/8, then duplicate and rotate and construct your wholecloth that way. But more of that on another day.


Sunday 4 December 2016

Feather Faster Wall hanging

Making good progress on my Feather Faster wall hanging. What a great practice piece! Learned so much from stitching this out. As mentioned before this wall hanging came from a class called Feather Faster that I did earlier this year with Bethanne Nemesh. In her class Bethanne taught us her method of producing gorgeous, free flowing, no marking feathers that are easier and faster to execute.
I was very curious about this and stitched out one of my more formal feathers first. I am a self taught quilter and have come to like the backtracking method (in comparison to the bumpback feathering technique). I find that backtracking is most useful as I can tidy up my feathers as I am backtracking...however I have become so used to it that I found Bethanne's method quite challenging.

So here is my first more formal feather
You can see how painfully orderly I am. Given the backtracking, this feather is dense and formal as I am only slightly changing shape and size. This is my muscle memory in action...I always stitch them like this and they do look very similar.

I threw in another challenge into only mark the spine and stitch the feathers out without any assistance. To my surprise, this worked very well. Usually I will draw in a few feathers at the start and then stop after a while to draw a few others just to keep the shape and size a bit consistent, but obviously I have done this so often that it just happens anyway now.

Bethanne's method...this is me trying to loosen up in the second feather...not that easy

While I had some different shapes in there, I struggled with not to backtrack and even that is still looking fairly orderly

Third feather was getting better but the real change came right down in the last one. The bottom feather is much more relaxed. Really enjoyed stitching that out and felt that I really had gotten the hang of this. Was able to be a bit more freeflowing and also discovered that Bethanne's method allowed me to make slightly larger feathers. Very useful!
Also really liked Bethanne's way of stitching the curl with her Feather Faster method. In the beginning, I did make myself a bit of an outline what I wanted to stitch, but did not need this in the next few...found that this works really nicely with those curls and leaf shapes and turns out beautiful, no matter what you stitch. Much easier than the formal feather curl
Only got some filling in to do in between the lines and then I can attach my birds.


Wednesday 30 November 2016

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2: Tension

I have been merrily freemotion-quilting away over the last week. Very enjoyable indeed!

Since the last service of the machine which was earlier in the year, I did notice some tension issues, particularly when stitching on the thinner cotton batting. I was not particularly fussed about this as it was very minor. It made sense to me as the technician would service the machine, then try out the tension via the decorative stitches and make slight adjustments, if necessary. I doubt he would have tried the machine on its freemotion quilting capabilities...anyway, every now and then I did notice that the bobbin tension was just a touch looser than what I had come to consider normal. Made a mental note to mention this to him next time.

During my recent feathering though this started to become a bit more noticeable.
If you look at the left side for the third curl you can see that the top thread is starting to lie on top of the fabric while I was stitching the curvature of the swirl...while this is not a big issue it did, sort of, through my concentration off every time this happened. So it was time to tackle this. While my stitching looked ok otherwise, it was time to have a bit of a closer look. I put some dark brown thread in my bobbin
You could clearly see that the bobbin thread was coming through. While this is not entirely preventable, this was just a bit too much and definitively accounted for my top thread lying on top of the fabric particularly when going slightly faster.

The Pfaff machine has a drop in bobbin case which is similarly adjustable as in machines with the  'normal' bobbin cases. When I took the bobbin case out and pulled on the bobbin, it did feel particularly loose. If you need to start fiddling with your bobbin tension, I suggest that you make a note (or better still, draw or photograph the position of your tension screw) at where your tension screw sits before touching to change it. Alternatively, you can use a second bobbin case to alter your tension. I have got a second bobbin case and changed this. You will need a tiny screw driver for this

My tension screw in the bobbin that I am using was sitting at just after 12 o'clock, so I tightened the new bobbin case to about 10 past 12 o'clock, turning the screw to the right.

If you don't know which side I am looking at, here is a photo of the bobbin case in my hand. The closed section of the bobbin case is facing my palm
You can see that my tension screw has been set at about 10 past 12 o'clock. Tried this and presto...we are back to normal
This is still stitched with the dark brown bobbin thread so the tension is just right, enough to pull the top  and the bobbin  thread right into the batting.

You will probably wonder why I did not talk about the top tension...normally with tension issues, you will adjust your top tension first. In my case I have stitched with the same thread for years (Aurifil) and use the same top tension (usually sitting at about 3.8). In order to adjust the tension, I would have had to make the top tension looser...given the thread was lying on top that would suggest that the top thread is pulling the bobbin thread too hard making it come up through the layers. However going down in tension would mean that my stitching would not look quite right as the top tension would be getting too loose. So the problem was clearly with the bobbin tension. Hope that made sense.

Stitched the next section without any problems and was loving it. Almost done with my little wall hanging!


Wednesday 23 November 2016

Lines Can Be Tricky

Started on my Bethanne Nemesh wall hanging. First step was to stitch blocks of wavy lines across the little quilt top (approx. 33in x 21.5in).

Easier said than done. I can imagine this to be effortless on a longarm just glide your machine over and you are done! Well, not so with a DSM. The machine is right in front of my nose, so even having a nice flat set up is of no great help as I cannot see beyond the machine. And while this would work for just one line, it would be difficult for several lines next to each other, as I just would not be able to see. Should maybe practice this.

So I looked in my tool box...what could I use to make the job easier? Remembered that I have the Sensormatic Echo foot
Gave that a go...and discovered that I am very much out of practice with this foot. In order to get it to glide across the surface, you need to have some speed, so on the lowest speed setting you need to depress the foot pedal all the way down (while at the same time watching where you are going) in order to get the gliding motion. Not used to that at all! Usually I start my stitching slow and gather speed as required. While you can also do this with this foot, when you are very slow it makes this annoying clunking sound...very irritating! Anyway, I did manage to get a grip on that and completed my first block of lines, only to realise that this was much too even (even with varying the width). This is actually not what I wanted for this quilt top.

So back to marking some lines on the top...I did this very loosely with an air erasable pen on the lighter fabric and some soap on the darker fabric, changed my foot back to the 6D Dynamic  Freemotion foot and stitched them out following my lines more or less. Afterwards I was thinking that I probably should have done this in the first place. You can see where I used the echo foot on the third block of lines...nice, but just too orderly.

Lines are done
As you can see there are some open spaces in the lines blocks...these will be filled with some FMQ later on. The spaces between the lines blocks will now be filled with some feathers a la Bethanne Nemesh, i.e. spineless, freeflowing, different types of feathers. This will be interesting. I think I might begin with a 'normal' type of feather first and then do the last three following Bethanne Nemesh method, weaving in different feather shapes as I go along.

Need to settle on a thread colour next...would like to use something light, maybe even different colours across the lot. Unsure...too many choices, as usual.

Linking up to Let's Bee Social over at Lorna's Sew Fresh Quilts


Monday 21 November 2016

Leftover Pouch

OMG...I have been bitten by the bag bug. Still making little pouches, ever since I heard about the Bag It Link Up up over at Elm Street Quilts.
I promise, this is the last one for a while...I mean how many pouches do I really need?

Could not resist though. I used the same pattern as for my last pouch (Pattern a la Carte from The Wooden Bear) as I liked its easy construction. Very quick to make and turned out just as nice second time around.

I used some of the last bits from my Drifting Leaves quilt and just sewed some strips together, using bits and pieces. Also used leftover small bits of fusible fleece and stitched them together for use, so felt particularly frugal.

The pouch is very pretty with two different sides

So cute...found some beads and a thin leather strap in the cupboard so I used this for a bit of fun embellishment.

Linking up my little pouch to Bag It Link Up over at Elm Street Quilts. Elm Street Quilts is running this event right into December and you can link up any bag which gives you an entry in the event. Really enjoying this event, but that's more! I actually need to get going on some other quilts.


Thursday 17 November 2016

Another Finish

Finished my Drifting Leaves Quilt, however will not be linking it up in the FAL 2016 as I forgot to mention it on my goal list for this quarter. Never mind, I know it's the second finish.

I must say this quilt is one of the most beautiful projects I have done in a while. To clarify, this is not my pattern...I won the fabric and some Auriful thread earlier in the year through the Aurifil blog (Auribuzz). Initially I had planned to make a little Owl quilt from this, but when the packet arrived I realised that I did get a Snack Pack which consists of 2 1/2in strips. The fabric was just so beautiful and I really did not want to cut them, in the end I did the quilt that was displayed on the back of the packet which was Shannon Brinkley's 'Drifting Leaves' Quilt. This quilt truly displayed the fabric in the most favourable way and I always had wanted to just make a strip quilt.

And here it is
Drifting Leaves - approx. 49in x 62in
I enjoyed making this quilt and used it to try a few different things on it, i.e. using a number of different decorative stitches to attach the leaves. I have posted about this HERE

Also, I laboured over how to quilt this. I really like the wavy lines that are used for some of the modern quilts, however for this quilt doing wavy lines horizontally did not suit. Doing wavy lines the length of the quilt freehand would be possible however I doubted that I would be able to maintain them somewhat straight and consistent over the length of the quilt doing them on a DSM. There were very few reference points (other than where I pieced two strips together) and some of the leaves were slightly tilted which would have surely send me down the wrong path.

In the end I decided to use my machine...I selected one of the wavy decorative stitches and stretched it out to maximum width, shortening the stitch length at the same time and put it into the machine's memory for continued use. I then made a bit of a plan on how to tackle the quilting

First I put a basting stitch right through the center both vertically and horizontally (I was using wool batting and even though I had it pin basted, I did feel it needed some extra securing). I then used masking tape to give me a straight line down the middle and another strip of masking tape some 8in away. I only stitched approx. 8in at a time, then stopped and did the next 8in following the numbers at the top. I also turned the quilt with every wavy line, going up and down which was a bit cumbersome, but ensured that I had no dragging of the lines. I was very curious (as in petrified) as to what this would look like...initially also a bit unsure what exactly I would follow once I had stitched the first line. When I started at the second line, it all made sense...I rode my sewing foot along the hills of the wavy line, sometimes just gliding along it and other times shifting it a bit to get some variation. This worked like a dream. As I was approaching the 8in masking tape, I could clearly see whether I was straight or a bit off and could make slight corrections. Overall this kept me very terms of variation and wonkiness, we are only talking about half an inch here and there.

Work in progress
Not that you can see it very well, but here is the first finished 8in, ready to take the tape off and go for the opposite side
Close up of the lines...I used two different colours...just because! Loved the texture that was emerging
And so I went along doing line after line. In retrospect, I could have structured this a bit differently and left some empty space that I could have filled in with some tree bark FMQ...that idea came about half way through the quilt! That would have worked really well as I would have had the lines for guidance.
The texture is gorgeous...just right for this quilt. At some stage I thought this might get too stiff because of the dense quilting, but it turned out great and it really suits the quilt.

What thread do you asked....Aurifil 50/2 wt, of course! This certainly eats up a lot of thread but you will be amazed...this is all I used for this quilt.
So economical, it's amazing!

Linking up to Let's Bee Social over at Lorna's Sew Fresh Quilts and also to the Needle and Thread Thursday Linky Party over at My Quilt Infatuation


Saturday 12 November 2016

Patterns a la Carte Pouch

A while back I won a Pattern a la Carte from The Wooden Bear through the FMQ challenge run by Quiltshopgal in 2015.

I finally got around to making this pouch.

With this pouch there were several themes that you could choose from  the web site. I chose the following
 I printed them on Matilda's Own Printable Fabric Sheets (you need two sheets if you want to include the side label) and cut out the bits that I needed super carefully. The pouch pattern was fantastic...there were three different options to change the look of your pouch and the instructions were easy to follow. The only thing I changed was the batting...I used my trusted fusible fleece.

Here is the completed pouch
The only issue I had was that my printable fabric did not like the heat that much and got slightly singed in parts. Had this problem before when making labels and ironing them...something to watch out for next time. Apart from this, this is one of the best pouches...the zipper is inserted with a casing on either side which looks fabulous, the pouch itself is very quick to put together and best of all, the lining sits like a glove.
Definitely will be doing another one of those once I get some more of the printable fabric sheets...this time paying more attention to the heat or maybe I should hunt around for a different product (as this has happened before with one of my labels).

Linking up my little pouch to Bag It Link Up over at Elm Street Quilts. Elm Street Quilts is running this event right into December and you can link up any bag which gives you an entry in the event. I might even do another one out of the leftovers of my Shannon Brinkley fabrics!


Friday 11 November 2016

Onto the Next Project

While I am finishing off the Drifting Leaves Quilt I have started to prepare the next project...Bethanne Nemesh' Bird Wallhanging. I did a class with her at the Australian Machine Quilting Festival, which was fantastic...the pattern for this little wall hanging was included. From memory hers was done in blue and yellow tones and looked stunning, to say the least.

Mine is going to be in Australian colours...the heat, the dust...the sunburnt country!
Can't wait to get going on this...lots of FMQ quilting coming up using Bethanne's 'Feather Faster' method of stitching spineless feathers across the quilt. Have not fused the birds as yet as I still need to construct the wire they are sitting on. Also wanted to see whether the bird is black enough to stand out from the brown. Looking at my instructions, I think they get fused on after the quilting...? Not sure about this.

Excited about this as I am hanging out to get back to FMQ. Have not done any FMQ other than a bit of doodling here and there for a few weeks.


Thursday 3 November 2016

Zip It Up Craftsy Class

Got a free Craftsy class thanks to the Ultimate FMQ Challenge that was run by Quiltshopgal during the summer.

After much searching and considering I got the 'Zip It Up' Craftsy class with Joan Hawley. While I have done zippers before, I definitely struggle with them and thought it was time that I had a bit of a look on how to do this properly. There are three bags to choose from in the class, all with different ways on how to insert the zipper. I rather liked the Bendy Bag...a small bag with an interesting shape where the zipper was cut and a casing was attached.

So I bought some psychedelic zippers
I am so easily distracted...I have so many other things to finish and to start...little bags were not really on my radar, but this was just too enticing.

I finished this little bag in a day (so satisfying!), having watched the 'Zip It Up' class in its entirety when I first got it.

Well here it is...the Bendy bag
Very sturdy little bag. It uses Fusible Fleece for stabilising. I quite like that product. Easy to work with and gives little bags like this a lot of stability and form. For the fabric, I grabbed what I had...these two Fat Quarters came from my goodies bag that we all got at the Australian Machine Quilting Festival. Nice and bold and the combination of green and purple looks great.
...and another shot. Very impressed with this. This uses a casing for the zipper which was easy enough to do following the class with every step. I literally hit the repeat button again and again...Actually I had very few issues other than pressing ahead and not listening and then finding out that I was supposed to do something different, like for example trimming all the seams to 1/8in. Completely missed that but for the last seam, so all the others are 1/4in which obviously worked just as well.
Cute little bag. Actually beginning to realise what I have been doing wrong with zippers in the past...while this zipper is not perfect, it is looking pretty good, i.e. it is sewn in straight for a change and fits in perfectly.

Highly recommended class...would not mind getting Joan Hawley's other class 'Zippered Bags with a Twist: The One-Zip Way' class. That looks really interesting as well.

Linking up my little Bendy bag to Bag It Link Up over at Elm Street Quilts. Elm Street Quilts is running this event right into December and you can link up any bag which gives you an entry in the event. Great!


Wednesday 2 November 2016

Drifting Leaves Quilt

I am working on my Drifting Leaves quilt. This is from the fabric that I won in the Auribuzz Blog Hop. The fabric is by Shannon Brinkley from her Dryad collection. It is absolutely beautiful and in the end I decided to follow her Drifting Leaves pattern which simply sews all the strips together.

For the leaves I ordered some of the Multicolour Print...gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Had trouble cutting into this, but managed to cut out my 17 leaves.
I am using this as a bit of a practice or re-acquaintance for some of the decorative stitches on the machine. I have another applique project in mind where I do want to use a variety of stitches. So I trialed  several different stitches to secure the leaves onto the fabric. Definitely was very rusty in doing this...some examples:
Filled circles as edge
Blanket stitch
...and close up of the uneven satin type stitch. I liked this one best as you cannot see any hiccups that will invariably happen
Uneven type satin stitch
Used various other options from the choice of stitches, some worked better than others. This time I used my Aurifil thread to do the applique which worked great and looks great as the colours coordinate nicely.
Quilt is now ready for basting
Found some nice dark blue dotty fabric in my never ending stash (the stuff I have got in there is unbelievable!) and put the binding together today.
Linking up to Lorna's Let's Bee Social over at Sew Fresh Quilts


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