Thursday, 29 May 2008

Confession time

I belong to several quilting groups, but my favourite is called 'Flutterwheels' (well, we had to call it something!). This is an informal group of nine quilters who want to push their skills a bit. We meet 6 times a year in each others' houses, and have a great time. Some people had been on an unsatisfactory City & Guilds course, so as an alternative to this, and the fact that they had ended up with lots of little samples of things which were neither use nor ornament and certainly wouldn't go together to make anything at all, we decided on a raffle format. Each member makes one block (or more, depending) and then the blocks are raffled at the next meeting.
This year's theme is stars and I was the lucky winner of some lovely purple stars from Nancy Johnson Srebro's book 'Stars by Magic'.

Don't they look fabulous? It's lucky that there are nine members of the group, because it makes a perfect quilt arrangement.

Now comes the confession. The only rule of the group is that you must make the blocks up within a year of winning them. This is to stop people getting burdened with UFOs, but didn't work in my case. In November 2006 I won some sizzling strips blocks, and although I put the blocks themselves together, I have only just finished the top!

I was really hoping to do something clever with the border - extend the top into the border or something, but this week I decided enough was enough and I needed to finish it. I'm quite plesed with the border treatment (although, as usual, I didn't have enough of the light blue border fabric to do the whole thing). I'm just quilting it at the moment, so don't let the other memebrs of Flutterwheels know that I'm so tardy, will you?!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Learning at work day 2

Learning at Work Day was yesterday, and the patchwork went very well. I held it over lunchtime, so that people would be able to eat, sew and gossip at the same time, which was much appreciated. There were 8 people who came at various times, but several people came in to see what we were doing, so I was quite pleased.

The sewing-onto-Vilene method worked very well, and enabled all the people to be successful and complete a block or two. It was heart-warming to see the sense of satisfaction and pride on the faces of these professional ladies, as they completed their first block. Two people didn't have time to finish a block, so have taken fabric to complete the block at home.

All agreed that it was both relaxing and satisfying (we all knew that already!) and said it would be nice to do it again one day.

I now have 16 blocks, with 2 more to come, so have been playing with arrangements. I can easily make more blocks to make enough for a Linus quilt. What about this radiating diamond?

Individual diamonds like this will be easier to extend, I suppose.

Flying geese look quite good.

This attempt at a pinwheel hasn't worked at all!

Let me know which arrangement you like the best and as soon as I get the extra blocks, I'll make it up.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Lots of love

Thank you to all those people who have sent their good wishes to my DH, who has broken his ankle. At the moment he isn't doing too well. He's in a lot of pain, and finding moving around - whether on crutches or hopping - quite tiring. His main frustration is that he can't carry anything, so can't get himself a cuppa or sandwich, unless he consumes them standing in the kitchen! He's due to go back to the hospital on 26th June, which seems a long time to wait. Let's hope the weather improves a bit, so he can sit in the garden and listen to the cricket.

Meanwhile, I have been doing more hand quilting and have finished my challenge quilts for Tonya's Summer Class and the Bramble Patch Summer Exhibition. I cleverly did it by combining the two into one quilt! The Bramble Patch gave away a free fat quarter of pink breast cancer fabric, which had to be used in the quilt. Tonya's theme was repetition, which is quite an easy one for a quilt! I decided to make 'LOVE' in pink, to cover both themes.

The LOVEs were all done free-style (without a pattern) which is why they vary a bit. The breast cancer fabric has been used for three different LOVEs, one of which is on the bottom row at the left. I hand quilted just inside each letter, as I didn't want to writing to be obscured by any quilting design.

The border is machine quilted with 'love' over and over.

Although I am not religious, I have called it 'But the greatest of these is love' (ICorinthians 13 v 13). The Bible certainly has a lot of wisdom in it!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Fiddling and twiddling

On Saturday I spent a fabulous day at Rocheberie Quilters with Jennie Rayment. Jennie is known for her facility to fold, tuck, twiddle and fiddle with fabric to produce some amazing 3-D blocks. In the morning Jennie held a workshop with all 60 people who came that day and in the afternoon she gave a talk. If you ever hear that Jennie is speaking within a 100 mile radius of where you live, bust a gut to get there. She is an accomplished performer, fantastic quilter and absolutely hilarious!
In the morning we made two blocks from calico.
She was such a good teacher, that although it was a bit complicated, everyone in the hall made it correctly! If this were embellished, it would enhance the twisted shapes beautifully. Have a look on Jane's blog for more examples, and a link to an article about Jennie.

This star shape should have had its edgeds folded back and twisted, but I rather liked the star shape on its own (I'm not really much of a fiddler), so much so, that I experiemented with striped fabric when I got home.

These blocks are a bit startling, but good, and I'm planning to sash them with black, with red cornerstones, and then a couple of borders (one stripey, one red) but meanwhile, I need to get on with some of my other UFOs, so it'll have to wait a bit.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

How I got extra hand-quilting time, or the perils of cricket

Cricket has a well-deserved reputation for being a leisurely summer game. It's played by white-clad men on village greens and in parks all over England, who always stop for tea half way through the game and is generally regarded as being about as exciting as watching paint dry (well, it is amongst the non-players!). However, like the worm that turned, there is a dangerous side to this gentle game. The ball they play with, is not unlike a small, red stone, in that it is made of very hard leather, and when thrown at velocity, can really sting your hands. And if it's thrown with velocity and happens to hit a bone, a break is likely to follow.

So, on Sunday afternoon, DH was playing for his village team and got hit on the ankle, and now has a Webber B fracture of the ankle. (They thought it might be Webber C, which necessitates a metal plate and nasty stuff like that, but luckily, it wasn't.)

Here he is trying to cancel some of his work appointments and follow the hospital's instructions about keeping his foot elevated.

So, what about my hand-quilting time? He had to visit the hospital twice this week, the first time to A&E and the second to the fracture clinic, both visits meaning long periods of time waiting for nurses, X-rays, doctors, plaster etc. While we were waiting, I successfully quilted two more sections of my Chaos Crumb quilt. Every cloud has its silver lining!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Learning at Work Day

Apparently it will be 'Learning at Work Day' on 22nd May, and my workplace has decided to mark it by holding some informal workshops. So far, there is German Conversation, Croquet, Belly Dancing, a rounders match (upstairs v. downstairs - could be very exciting!) and patchwork. I bet you can guess who has been volunteered to do the patchwork!
I'm happy to do it, but since it will be over lunchtime (people can drop in and sew for a while anytime between 12 and 2, depending on their work schedule) worried about what can realistically be achieved?

I decided that since I am a teacher, and all the people at my workplace deal with children, a children's charity quilt might be a good place to start. I wanted something which would be easy to hand sew, and not be hexagons!

My solution is to do some string blocks in pink, so that there will be a uniformity to them. I wanted to do multicoloured blocks, but thought that people new to patchwork might find it easier to stick to one colour at a time.

I have cut some squares of lightweight Vilene and marked the diagonal on them.

Then I cut lots of pink scraps into strips. The idea is that you lay a strip along the diagonal line, and then sew another one on top, flip and continue until you have covered the Vilene.

I have made a few blocks so that people can see what they are aiming for. I did them on the machine, rather than by hand, but it'll be the same.

I'll let you know whether it is a success or not in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The dreaded Y seam

I have been doing some more work on stars. This time it was the eight pointed star, which includes some of the dreaded Y seams! I have always shied away from these before, because on the odd occasion that I did try one, it ended up a lumpy mess! This time I researched my subject carefully and tried several different methods. This is the one I found worked best for me.

First of all, when sewing you main shape, don't sew all the way to the end of the seam. Stop a quarter of an inch from the end and do a couple of back stitches. This allows the fabric to move a bit and not be caught in the sewing.

Most methods suggest you mark the corner of both shapes at the quarter inch intersection. I went one better than this, and marked the seam line up to the corner in both directions on the wrong side of the fabric - easy to see exactly where you are sewing and where the intersection is.

Then you lay the piece to be sewn on top of the star, right sides together with the edges parallel, and the intersection firmly in line with the seam line. You can poke a pin throught the intersection to check it's directly on the seam line if you like. Put a pin in to secure it while you sew.

Sew along the seam line up to the intersection and stop with your needle down.

This is the only tricky bit. Swivel the pieces round, so the next two edges are ready to sew. Try to straighten both pieces of fabric, especially at the Y bit, so they lie flat (or at least flattish!). Then continue sewing right to the end of the shape.

It should look something like this when it's finished.Now press and hey presto, a flat Y seam!

OK, it would have been better if I hadn't lost one of my points, but a bit of fudging will solve that. At least my Y seams are tuck and lump free!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Saturday night in

It's always good to get out and see friends, a film or a play, but once in a while, it's nice to have a night in. After a few busy weekends, holidays, doing front of house for a drama production, a wedding and meet-up with some old friends, we had a Saturday when the calendar was blank. Bliss!

This is the cue for a curry (cooked in the oven, like a casserole, so it's ready whenever you are), a glass (or two) of red wine, Dr. Who on the tele and then an evening sewing in front of the box for me, and some watching of football and 'High Fidelity' for DH. I watched 'High Fidelity' too, although we've both seen it before. If you haven't seen it, I can recommend it, as it's one of the few films which are as good as the book, and if you like Jack Black, it's a must.

I have decided to quilt one of my Chaos Crumb quilts, ready for the workshop later this year, and after much deliberation, felt that although it would be possible to machine quilt the sashing, the blocks needed to be hand quilted.

Well, I say hand quilting - it's a cross between running stitch and big stitch quilting, but it works for me. I would have used a dark beige thread, if I had any, but I only had lilac, which seems to have worked well with all the different colours.

I have just quilted about a quarter of an inch in from the seam line on each string, to avoid the bulk, an idea copied from Gwen Marston's string quilts book. I did nearly three of the nine big blocks in an evening, so it'll be interesting to see how long the whole thing takes me!

Meanwhile, I have finished machine quilting my baby quilt, and apart from the label, it's ready for its recipient. It still looks rather pale to me, but I'm sure any baby would be happy to be sick on it!