Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't tell them you saw me...

I don't know about you, but I've found Bonnie's mystery quilt  surprisingly addictive.

So much so that I've been sneaking away from guests; vanishing  between courses; going to bed early (yawn, "aren't you tired?")  to cut and piece as much as possible.

Well, I haven't been too rude so  I've still got a way to go.

I have an idea about how all the pieces go together, but I don't want to be a spoilsport.  If you want to see a possible solution have a look back here

Bye for now.  I'd better get back to the entertaining.  People will wonder why it takes so long to stack the dishwasher.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Red Herring

December is such a busy time of year.  I think hardly anyone in the western world is not affected by a sense of urgency to have everything complete and tidied up before the end of the year, before the festivities, before normal life shuts down.

It is with that same desire to finish as much as possible that quilterie has been burning the midnight oil.  Another block  has been completed from the BTCT quilt:

Lori's Cheddar Cheese and Crackers quilt-along previewed here has also been put together.

Notice that the 2011 challenge fabric makes an appearance in the bottom right hand corner.  If you think I have not been following my own challenge I will write about my success (or not) when I present my 2012 challenge.

Finally I would like to explain the post title.  First though, I will warn  those doing the Orca Bay  mystery quilt with Bonnie Hunter

Spoiler Alert

In her Part 6 clue, Bonnie practically dared us to reveal what we thought the pattern was, so I am throwing in my idea of what we are making:

You can see that I am not 100% sure so I haven't actually sewn the block together.  I do like it though and I hope that this block does feature.  Whatever it turns out like, I have already decided to call my quilt "Red Herring",  since it is so obviously not reminiscent of an Orca whale, or even Orca Bay.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Birds and Fishes

When it was pointed out out that the "Beyond the Cherry Tree" quilt has been going two years I found it difficult to believe.  I am at the stage of the quilt where there is no turning back.  Seventeen blocks complete; three almost complete and five more to go.

Not every block appeals.  A few feel distinctly odd so I have made a substitute block.

It's a block from the presentation quilt for William A Sargent.  I like it because there are cherries, a vase that is similar in proportion to other vases in the "Beyond the Cherry Tree" quilt and the birds are recognizable birds.

My week has also seen more revealed of the Orca Bay Mystery quilt over at Bonnie Hunter's blog.  I have had my foot down hard on the sewing machine pedal.  It's great using the Easy Angle ruler by Sharon Hultgren;

Bonnie recommended it and I have found it makes short shrift of all that piecing - 700 little triangles added to the 350 HSTs since Saturday morning.

I have fiddled around with the blocks trying to imagine what Bonnie has created, but I still can't make it out.  I will be happy with the result no matter what.  There is space appearing in my 'brown' drawers and I have also cut up small scraps I was saving with no real purpose in mind.  It really feels like Christmas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In the Beginning

Inspired by Nicky's post I thought I'd tell you about my first encounter with quilts.

Back in 1994 I had 4 children ranging from 7 to 3 years old.     Early morning band practice meant getting all the kids ready for the day, hiking up the highway, depositing a son by 7am. and then treating the other children in tow.

Bribery was the order of the day and (I'm not proud to reveal)  the other children  became weekly breakfasters at the golden arches.  Close by was a quilt shop.  "The Quilting Bee" may sound like a cliche to you, but to me it was a revelation.  I stared through the windows every Wednesday morning, taking in the details of the beautiful quilts that I could see hanging.

Finally, in 1995, when the youngest spent 2 days at pre-school,  I returned during business hours and asked innocently "Given my circumstances, do you think I would have enough time to quilt?"  The owners, Pam and Noni, looked at each other and replied "Of course".

The world, for my family up until then was BQE - before the quilting era. 

Noni proved to be a marvellous teacher.  She took us through an 8 lesson course that included drafting patterns, quilting,

applique, curved piecing (sorry, I fail at that still)

and many more lessons and tips.   Noni moved to Melbourne (lucky them) but I recently bumped into her in Sydney.  It felt like running into my kindergarten teacher.  I was so excited.

Now we are in the QE - the quilting era.  Long may it last!  I'd love to hear how you came to patchwork and quilting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Mystery Deepens

Part III of Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt "Orca Bay" was published Friday night Sydney time.  Too late to actually sew it; more of a bedtime gift.  I drifted off wondering how I was ever going to sew 350 HSTs before the next clue on Friday 9th December.

I shouldn't have worried.  It's Monday afternoon  and here are 350 2"squares ready to show:

After a slow start with my usual technique (cutting oversized squares, pressing sewing lines, cutting the diagonals and then trimming) I reluctantly decided there must be a better way.  I have never even contemplated sewing large amounts of HSTs before so I have never needed a stream-lined technique;  that's not the way I make quilts.

However, Bonnie gives clear instructions on how to use the Easy Angle ruler and I found I could make 50 HST at a time without raising a sweat.

I also tried adjusting my sewing machine on an angle with 2 small doorstops.  It  allowed me to see the sewing line much easier. And I used a guide for sewing.  With my fancy machine I am able to shift the needle over to the right to adjust to a perfect 1/4" seam.  There is a first time for everything. Right?

So I hope all my new adaptations  mean I won't struggle as much to achieve accuracy.  I should have tried these tricks years ago.  I am puzzled that I didn't, but I have an unexpected bonus from taking part in the "Orca Bay" mystery quilt.  Head over here to see more posts from others doing the same quilt.

I pulled out another UFO that has me scratching my head somewhat.  I started Lori's from Humble Quilts "Cheddar Cheese and Crackers" quilt before I began writing  my blog.  Not having much use for small quilts I chose to make mine bigger.  Big mistake.  It's not finished more than eighteen months  later and when I look at it,  I can't work out where all the pieces are supposed to fit.  Not as big a mystery as Bonnie's quilt, but still a mystery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Antidote

Since I got home from Houston I have spent the past few weeks hand quilting.  I am using the big stitch technique employing both perle 8 and perle 12 thread.  Without realising I seem to have amassed quite a collection of different coloured threads

Daily intense sessions mean I am almost done, but it has been very quiet sewing time.  I miss the whirr of my sewing machine.  A little bit of machine piecing would  provide the perfect antidote to satisfy my need for diversity,  so I started  Bonnie Hunter's Orca Bay Mystery quilt.  Last year I almost joined the Roll, Roll Cotton Boll mystery.  I wish I had.  So when this came along I dived in to the Bay.

The first step was OK.  Just 224 QSTs.   Week 2 required only 72 string pieced 3 1/2" squares.

 Surprising to me was just how long this part took.  I have never constructed a quilt in this manner before.  I tend to make a block (stare at/admire it for a while) and then make another block.  It is a slow old process.  Making a massive number of units in one go is new to me.  Perhaps that is why I am usually so slow to finish.

A quilt started way back when, is almost finished.

I put the binding on and am just about to label it.  The story behind it is here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sculpture by the Sea

Every year Sydney's  "Sculpture by the Sea"  gets more and more popular.  It is located on a cliff side walk between Bondi Beach and Tamarama Beach.  Now in its 15th year the people's choice for 2011 was "Cosmic Elk"

 It is by South Korean artist Byeong Doo Moon.  I would love to be so creative...or at least as amusing as Juan Pablo Pinto and Clary Akron

or even as whimsical as Hannah Kidd

or as colourful as Deborah Halpern:

But what's a quilt blog without some pictures of fabric?  Lucy Barker made it look easy with this:

You can't tell from  my pictures but there are the huge crowds and  extreme heat.  At 5.30pm it was 37 degrees celcius (that's 100 degrees for the rest of you)! all making Lucy's exhibit very inviting.

Back at the homestead I've been busy beavering away on Bonnie Hunter's Orca Bay mystery quilt.  Check it out and see if you could resist.

Yes, I know I already have too many UFO's to count, but I couldn't resist cutting and sewing 224 (you read right, 224) brown and cream  2.5" quarter square triangles.   Perhaps the heat got to me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

History Repeated

While I was at Houston, I did buy one or two things...this book just yelled out to me.

I was lucky enough to attend a talk given by the authors, Betsy Chutchian and Carol Staehle.  They gave a short show and tell of many of the quilts featured in their book.  Well, the show and tell wasn't short.  There were so many quilts to show that each only got a brief exposure.

But here is a favourite picture with Betsy talking about her quilt on the right and Janet Henderson's on the left.  Same block, different settings.

I came across the 19th-Century Patchwork Divas back in 2008 at Houston on my first visit.  This quilt totally stole my eye.

 If I remember correctly,  it subsequently made it onto the cover of a Quilters Newsletter Magazine.  Isn't it glorious?  It couldn't find it in there, but the book is jammed with pictures of other quilts made by a bunch of supremely talented craftswomen.  Wouldn't you love to be part of that group?

I've put "History Repeated" on my page for favourite books.  Did you notice I've tidied up my blog?  Check out just under the header.  Thanks to Karen from  Sew Many Ways  for the blogging tips.   You should visit her;  she is full of amazing tips and ideas.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Biggest Show on Earth

Just like you can lose you quilt mojo, the blog raison d'etre can also go AWOL.  My apologies for disappearing without a trace.

It's been a long 2 weeks both in time and space.  I have just travelled halfway across the globe to visit Houston, land of the biggest quilt show on earth.  I don't know if that is actually true, but hey, it's in Texas, so it probably is.

Part of the 2011 Houston show included a  tour of the new Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange.  No photography was permitted inside the museum but I was able to take a photo from outside.

Naturally a book was published to coincide with Market/Festival and the museum opening, so you can see for yourself what those of us lucky to get there in person were privileged to see.  There were many iconic quilts displayed.

More of the collection was on show at the George R. Brown convention centre.  Just to give you an idea of the scale of the quilt show here is a picture during one of the quieter moments.  Photography was somewhat restricted here too.  In any case, there are plenty of photos circulating on the blogs now so I won't add to them.

I had a wonderful time;  attended many classes of well known quilters and a few lectures as well.  I learned so much and came home full of new ideas and inspiration.  By far the best part was meeting some of my blog mates.  And I was delighted to discover that they are just in nice in person as they are in the ether.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Modern Quilting

Recently I had 2 quilts machine quilted by Adri.  She did such a special job for me.  Adri follows my blog and read how much I liked my border fabric on the simple rectangular quilt.  She is a super computer whizz and somehow "digitized" the pattern from the fabric and transferred it to an all-over pattern for the quilt.

I hope Adri doesn't mind me telling you that when she starts speaking  technical computerese  I lose track  almost immediately.  But the  result speaks for itself.  The backing fabric I used here is also one of my favourites.  I will show off the whole quilt when the binding gets around to putting itself on.

 Nicky asked me  to show a close up of Adri's customized quilting for the second quilt.  Look at these blocks.  Aren't they amazing?

Last Saturday was the inaugural meeting of the Sydney Modern Quilt Guild.  Women (where are Sydney's modern quilt men?) came from all over Sydney to meet for the first time.  There were the usual suspects as well as a whole new contingent of quilters, including 2 junior members, both under one year old.

Defining a "modern quilter" took a bit of time and in the end it was left open.  Is a modern quilter someone who embraces new techniques, technology etc or is it someone who makes liberated quilts; or does it refer to a particular style of simple, clean quilts?  If you know the answer, please leave a comment.

 A  few brave souls brought along some show and tell.

Looking at some of these lovely samples, I wondered if the definition of a modern quilter is reflected by this.

Apologies to the quiltmakers.  We were wearing labels, but I didn't write down the names of the ladies responsible for these two quilts.  I am looking forward to participating in our new guild.  I think it is a welcome addition for Sydney's quilters.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Old, not Antique

There is  family history in this photo.

My grandmother had the sole distribution of these little gadgets in the UK after the second world war.  They are needle threaders and I associate them with memories of her.  Long before I knew what they were,  I remember seeing bundles of them around  her house.

I confess that I have never used one, even now.  My mother came across a last little
box and felt nostalgic.  The instructions are in German, English, Italian, French and perhaps a Scandinavian language and Dutch.  I can't be sure of the last two.  But all bases were covered because if you didn't read any of the above languages, there are pictures as well.

Particularly useful is the plastic spool holder.

One of my favourite lines is instruction #4.  "Lift needle and it will be threaded, as if by magic."

If the background looks familiar it is an unfinished quilt top from Lori's quiltalong to make "Cheddar Cheese and Crackers way back in early 2010.  Lori gave instructions for a small quilt and I not only increased the size of the block, but also the number of blocks.  Not so smart since mine is still waiting to be finished.  Anyway, there are now lots of nice versions, finished.

At the recent Pearl Beach craft show there were a few  bargains to be had including this book for $1.

The flash has partially obscured the author's name - Beth Gutcheon and the book was reprinted in 1976.

Also at Pearl Beach, I caught sight of an asylum seeker.  Knowing Australians don't celebrate Thanksgiving I wonder how far this creature has travelled.

Just joking.  Actually, it's a bush turkey and a whole colony has set themselves up  at Pearl Beach.

Finally, I know I set the date of the giveaway as this Friday, but as the interest has settled I think it will be OK to announce the winner today.  Congratulations JulieQ. I will contact you to get a mailing address.  Those who didn't win the Kaye England pattern can buy one from her website kayeengland.com Search under books and DVDs.

I hope you all get in some quality sewing time this week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tiny and Teeny-Weeny

Recently I wrote about 2 quilts I busted a gut to get to Adri, the machine quilter, on time.  Here is the second quilt,  a kit I purchased in 2003 from The Patchwork Heart  in Penrith.  Usually I don't buy kits but my heart stopped when I saw this one.

 It is from a booklet produced by Kaye England.   Now that my quilt is finally completed I no longer need the pattern so, with Kaye's permission,  I am giving it away.

Inside the booklet there are poems and songs as well as background to the blocks' names and all the cutting and piecing instructions for each of the 12 blocks.  Just leave a comment relating your greatest quilting bargain (see below) and you will be in the running to win.  International entries welcome.   Competition closes Friday 28th October, 2011 at midnight EST Australian.

Adri  has cleverly customized the quilting so that it is a sampler of machine quilting.  And the back is one of my favourite column fabrics.

I was in two minds as to whether I should use it or not, but as I have previously discussed, the fabric will be enjoyed more on a quilt than tucked away in a cupboard.  One of my memories attached to this fabric is that it was a metsieh (yiddish for bargain).  In 2008 it was on sale for $2/yard, unless, of course,  I wanted to finish the bolt.  In that case it was $1/yard.  I walked away with more than 5 yards and a huge grin on my face.

The little guy on the top left of the quilt is a "dragon" made by my son when he was 10.   I think it is cute, but the dogs often mistake it for a possum at night and growl and bark to try to frighten it away.  It must infuriate them that it never budges from this spot.

Apart from stitching down the binding on my quilt, this week I finished off a section of "Hexagonia".

It has been put aside to permit rumination for the design direction.  The 5/8" hexagons seem huge compared to this little project I started:

A pin is next to the 1/4" hexagons so you can get an idea of the size.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


After a lengthy hiatus and thanks to  Cyndi I am able to start back on my 5/8ths" hexagon portable project.

The side edges measure 16" and the greatest width is 31" across at this stage.  I am making it up as I go and ran out of the background fabric in March.  Cyndi, angel that she is, hunted around and found some more for me.  I count myself extremely lucky.  The back of these things always intrigue me,  so if you feel the same way you may be interested in this

The intention is to hand quilt it, so I have been paring back the seam allowance after sewing.  Somewhere I read that this is a big no-no, but since I use at least a dozen topstitches to put each edge of the hexagons together I am hoping it should be strong enough.  Opinions on this are not only welcome, but desired.

Juggling projects is always a problem for the unrepentant starter that I am.  I managed to finish another quick, basket  block from the Beyond the Cherry Tree Album quilt.

Finally, while I was out and about last week I caught sight of the New South Wales state government trying to make a quick buck.

I know we are almost bankrupt, but selling our state (Mitchell) library is going one step too far!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Loose threads

 After finishing another  block from the Beyond the Cherry Trees Album quilt  I did the right thing and soaked my applique.  Little did I expect the purples to run and I was dismayed to discover that the colour catcher didn't seem to work for purple.  I removed the offending "grape" and was rather disgruntledly preparing to cover the stain with 2 over sized grapes.   Meanwhile, the block was left to soak overnight with the colour catcher.  All of the purple stain vanished so now I know to allow things to soak in water for extended periods.  I challenge you to find the colour run.

The week has been packed with non quilty activity, including hosting a dinner for 14 on Wednesday.

However, I did manage to fit in a machine quilting class with Kim Bradley at Quiltsmith.  It was a wonderful, relaxed class with Kim who proved to be a great teacher.  She was extremely encouraging and advised 10 minutes of machine quilting a day to improve skill.  So I did what I was told and here is a picture of my 10 minutes practice the day after the class.

I have been neglecting my traditional quilting in favour of big stitches and now machine quilting.  It was no surprise to discover my fine stitching skills were very rusty.  I pulled out a large semi-quilted, mainly applique quilt started in 2003.  It is a Karen Cunningham design that she published in a magazine. 

 This spring long weekend in Sydney has been like winter -wet and cold.  It was the perfect opportunity to rediscover my hand quilting.