December 28, 2016


No quilt post today.  Instead a farewell.

My beautiful friend Sharon passed away yesterday morning after a long, brave fight with ovarian cancer.

It's hard to imagine a kinder, gentler person than Sharon.  Her warm, loving smile could light up the darkest room.  I feel very blessed to have known her and will always cherish the memories - laughing at "Tuesday Group" (where I met her), going out to lunch, shopping, and sharing our mutual love for quilting.

And I will think of her every time I make a quilt using the design she taught me, and which I have been calling "Squares of Sharon".
Fly free, lovely angel.

December 21, 2016

Quilt 83 - Lil's Christmas Tablerunner - DONE!

Anybody with a lick of sense would just love my friend Lil.  She's a sparkly little Irish lass with a bit of the devil in her eye - loving and kind, thoughtful and just as refreshing as a spring breeze.

She asked me to make her a table runner at the start of the year - and was so very enthusiastic about the results that I knew I should do another.  With Christmas coming, I pounded my brain for what to give her and well... of course!  She'd seen a couple of runners I did last year and admired them, telling me exactly what she liked about each, and I just knew what to do.

So here we go - a square of fabric 9.5".  I have a "jelly roll" of Christmas prints, and cut the strips into quarters.  Below are 2 of the quarters lined up with the center square:

Now I take the other 2 quarters and stitch on a little square of the same fabric as the center block.  The strips, of course, are  2.5" wide, so the little square is cut to meet that.  I just kept adding strips and strips-with squares attached.  Easy as anything and fast as lightning. 

Bang!  And away we go.  I opted to back it with some unbleached homespun (muslin) and tacked together some leftover scraps of batting from other projects.

One thing that concerned me was making sure the whole thing would line up "plumb" on the machine.  So I lined up the center of the piece with the lines on the leader cloth - and dug in a pin to mark the point where the center was.  Each time I advanced the runner, I checked the center with this pin.

Here's the finished runner.
15" x 85" - cotton batting

Just plain loop-d-loops for the back - nothing fancy.  The quilting was done i n a flash.
 Lil and I met to have our little exchange day before y'day. - she was thrilled with the runner and promptly set it on her kitchen table, with her lovely white candles and white-berry centerpiece on top (why didn't I get a photo of it?!?!?). 

It was such an easy and quick project - hope you try one for yourself!

And Merry Christmas to you!

December 14, 2016

Quilt 82: "Spirit Animals" - DONE!

When I was on vacation last October, I came across this gorgeous panel in a quilt shop ( "Spirit Animals" by Robert Kaufman):
(Click on any picture on this page to see a larger image)
I bought 2 of the panels, thinking a design with 12 images might make a good sized quilt.  I showed the panels to a friend a couple of weeks ago and she fell in love with the animals and commissioned me to make a quilt for her son's Christmas this year.

Here's the design I came up with - simple blocks in lattice with plain borders.:
Cutting the panels apart was slightly problematic.  The blocks inside the panels are bordered with a lovely gold metallic design - but there's no way to divide the blocks and retain that gold border.

I decided to cut away the gold border, leaving just the dark brown edge of the original block:

But as I worked, I quickly realized that, for each of the blocks, the actual distance between the gold metallic border and the cream block was different!  Fortunately I realized it fairly early - and, as you see in the photo below - in some cases I actually left a small amount of the gold on.  After measuring the distance on each block, I realized that I could cut 5/8" from the cream and have a small amount of the brown (and the thin black line bordering the cream).  As you can see in the block below, there's a tiny bit of gold still there, but it's well within the 1/4" seam allowance, and won't show once it's sewn.

Next I auditioned fabrics to decide what colours to frame the blocks in.  I really like the bright orange you see below.  It pulls up the orange and red tones in the animals, giving a very lively visual effect.  But the orange "fights" a little with the gold I want to use for my sashing and backing. 

I resolved this conflict by adding another chocolate border after the orange one.  That gave just enough visual separation and enhanced the "frame" effect I wanted for each block.

I chose Signature's "chamois" thread (which has a soft gold colour), and am using the "Blustery Breeze" groovy boards for the pattern.  This was actually a fairly bold choice, as the thread really shows up on the blue and chocolate brown borders.  After finishing the first pass (12 inches deep and all the way across) I was a little worried I'd made a mistake with the thread colour.  But by the time I got halfway through, I knew I'd made the right choice.

Here it is on the longarm:
The dark gold sashing between the blocks is done with a subtle print which slightly resembles leather. I used the same fabric for the backing: 
I'm a bit frustrated with my camera.  I've tried several times with and without flash to get a good shot
of the backing, but it always comes out washed-out looking.  The photos above and below this one
are truer to the golden shades in this fabric.
As you can see in the closeup below, the light gold thread fades into the animals pretty well, and is really only greatly visible in  the lattice and borders.  It's exactly the effect I wanted: gives the energetic, wild "spirit wind" feel overall, but doesn't overwhelm the animals, which are the central theme.

And here it is - FINISHED!  It turned out so well that I ordered a couple more panels.  I'm pretty sure someone else is going to want one of these (and there is time to get it done before Christmas).

67" x 78" - quilted on the longarm ("Blustery Breeze" groovy boards) - 100% cotton batting
This is the largest quilt I've done on the longarm.  Because my machine's frame is set up at 8 feed wide (instead of it's full 12 feet capacity), this is as wide as I can go.

December 7, 2016

Quilt 81: Hawaiian Sea Turtles - DONE! (and the mystery of the "purple navy")

Last week I told you about my friend's grandsons and the quilts I am making for their Christmas presents.  Here's the second Hawaiian print we're using:
This print has golden/tan sea-turtles, pineapples, and canoes floating over blue
polynesian triangles.  It's an interesting design with a definite ethnic overtone.

And the design - which is simply a copy of the previous design with the colours adjusted:

And, like the one last week - this one came together very quickly!  As we did with the previous quilt, we stuck to solid cotton fabric except for the sea-turtle print.  That brings the print's colours and design forward and kept the cost down, too!
55" x 77" - quilted on the longarm ("Blustery Breeze" groovy boards) - cotton batting
The quilting is done with dark blue thread - Signature Threads' "saffire" (which is about halfway between royal blue and navy).

In the closeup below, you can see the

On this one, I added gold squares on one of the borders and used gold for the binding - just to pull up the golds a little bit more. 
The backing on this one gave me a little bit of a headache.  We wanted navy blue - and I made a special trip to get it.  When I got the fabric home and saw it in natural light (ie: not the fabric shop's lights) I saw that this "navy" fabric looks distinctly purple next to the Hawaiian print!  At this point, time was getting short.  I had some dark blue solid fabric in my stash - enough to finish this quilt - so we opted to use that.  In the photos above, the darker blue bits on the top are from that fabric I had already.

But when I started to put the backing together, I found there was a large flaw smack in the middle of it - no way to cut around it!  EEEK!

So I pulled the "purple navy" back out and discussed options with my friend - who agreed to have me back the quilt with that.  It actually turned out very nice - the "purple navy" wouldn't have gone well on the front, but having it on the back was fine.

I'm still scratching my head over this, though.  The "purple navy" only looks purple when it's placed next to blue or purple fabrics.  Put it next to white, grey, or anything else, and it looks "navy".

Go figure...

November 30, 2016

Quilt 80: Hawaiian Surf Boards - DONE!

Hubby and me honeymooned on the island of Maui - and loved it so much that we've returned to the islands several times.  Once I started quilting I quickly realized that lovely Hawaiian-print fabric (which we can't get here in Australia) makes a lovely souvenir.  Here's one of the prints I have brought back with me:
(click any picture on this page to see a larger image)
A friend of mine sent her daughter and two grandsons to Oahu this past April for a special treat.  The boys just adored Hawaii, and she and I cooked up the idea of using some of my Hawaiian fabric to make a quilt for each of them for Christmas.

Both boys are quite tall (the eldest is 6' 1"), so the quilts need to be fairly long.  I opted to keep things as "even" as possible, and use pretty much the same block design for each, although the fabrics will be different.  For this first one (the surfboard print above), here's the design:
I opted to adjust the colours a bit, making the internal lattice dayglow orange instead of red, and toning down the other borders as well.  Too much bold colour in the borders would have overwhelmed the colours in the surfboard print.

And here it is - completed. 
55" x 77" - quilted on the longarm ("Blustery Breeze" groovy boards) - cotton batting
 Here's a closeup of the center blocks (below).  In this photo you can see the colours a bit better, especially the orange (which the camera seems to wash out a bit if the flash is used):
The quilting is done with chocolate-brown thread, which pretty much fades into the print (as you can see above).  And the backing is brown as well (it's actually dark brown - the flash has washed out the colours):
Now to whip up the other quilt - that one will be primarily blue and gold. 

November 23, 2016

Quilt 79: Moda "Pink" Charm Squares

And yet again... another "charm square" quickie quilt. I'm rushing a bit now, as I set a goal for myself at the start of the year to do one quilt a month (minimum) for the "Inspirational Quilts" charity - and I'm behind. So here's anothe.

This one is done with Moda's "Quilt Pink" charm square packet:

And here's the design:
And here's the finished quilt!
53" x 66" - quilted on the longarm (free motion loop-d-loops) - 100% cotton batting
And here's a close-up of the backing (the solid pastel mint green) and the binding/borders - showing my "loop-d-loop" free-motion work.

It only took me 2 hours to do the quilting - so I KNOW I'm getting faster.  Actually - I'm quilting about as fast as I dare, suspecting that going any faster than I did on this quilt might actually cause the needle to heat up too much.
Looking back on the other charm-square quilts I've done, I have to say that I generally prefer the borders to be solids which pull out colours from the prints - this one, however, I do like the pink printed border (the fabric matches one of the squares - see the one in the upper left of the center?).

So this one is done, and handed over to my good friend Jen (who lives near Nancy of Inspirational Quilts - Jen is my "quilt courier" - thanks, Jen!)

November 16, 2016

Keeping Things in Line

I recently spent some time watching longarm quilting videos on YouTube, just to see what tricks I might pick up.  I found a video discussing the problem of keeping the top properly aligned when you are "floating" the top. 

"Floating" is what I do.  It just means the top is laying on the backing/batting - and although it's stitched down across the top (and on the sides as you gradually work your way down), it really would be very easy to accidentally pull it to the left or right as you go along.  If that happens, the final quilt won't be blocked correctly, but will lay crooked.  The longer the quilt, the more likely you'll get the edges drifting to one side or the other as you work your way down.

Well, in this video, the suggestion is to measure the distance from the left and right edges of the quilt to the sides of the longarm frame every time you advance the quilt.  I can see how that would work, but.. hm.. it just seems a bit fiddly.  I came up with a method that works well without so much fuss.

Have a look at the picture below.  Here you see a quilt mounted on the frame - and notice the bar (covered in white material) laying across the quilt.  That bar is intended to be used to roll the quilt top on it.  I guess the idea is you mount the top on that bar and roll it out bit by bit as you advance the quilt on the frame.  Most likely doing that, you'd avoid the blocking problem and your top wouldn't end up pulled to the left or right.  But I like just doing the "float" technique (just laying the top on and not rolling on the bar) - it's faster.
My solution to the alignment problem is this:  I use the leader cloth on that top bar to mark where the edge is on the quilt when I start.

Below shows the leader bar over the left side of my quilt.  I stuck a pin into the leader cloth lined up with the left side of the quilt top (the gold fabric).  As you can see below, the pin enters the leader cloth right where the left edge is.  I did the same thing on the right side of the quilt.
Each time I finish a segment of the quilt and advance it on the frame, I just keep an eye on the alignment of the edges with the pin, and if the top has shifted, I gently slide it back into alignment.


November 9, 2016

Quilt 78: Peek-a-Boo Pinks and Purples - DONE!

About this time last year I made a child's quilt using Moda's "Peek-a-Boo" charm squares.  I bought 3 packs of those squares, which gave me way more than I really needed, so I pulled out most of the pink and purple squares and a handful of the white squares and set them aside.  I intended to use those for a cot-size quilt, but forgot about them when the squares ended up shuffled under a stack of other fabric in my closet.  But I came across them a couple of weeks ago when I was hunting for something else, and so I went ahead at finished the quilt top.

The backing fabric I chose for this project is a lavender polka dot print.  Because there would be a seam in the backing I had to be really careful in how I matched up the dots.

I started with the two lengths of backing, placed them right sides together for the seam.  Then I folded back the top length and carefully ironed a fold following the space between the rows of dots.  Then I pinned the folded length to the other length, taking care to make sure the dots on each length lined up (as you see in the photo below).
After pinning, I flattened the top length and carefully stitched into the fold line left by the iron.  Below you can see the stitching in that fold
And here it is!  I'm very pleased with how well the dots along my seam have lined up.
This was a very fast project - I think I spent just under three hours piecing putting the top together, one hour for the quilting and about ninety minutes for the binding.  And here is, completed!
40" x 46" - quilted on the longarm (free-motion Loop-d-Loops), 100% cotton batting
I quilted using a variegated purple-and-blue thread.  In the closeup below, you can see that the thread really works well with the print.
And here's the backing - and look!  Can you see the seam line in the backing?  It's there, but if you aren't looking for it, it pretty much disappears with the quilting on top!
This is another project for Inspirational Quilts.

November 2, 2016

Quilt 77: Moda "Poetry" Charm Squares - DONE!

As promised: I'm back on track with quilting again!

And I've just finished another "charm square" quilt.  These are fun to do and are really quick projects.
This charm square pack has lovely floral prints in two shades of pink, blue, yellow, and green.
The prints all have a soft "peach" highlight to them - so I opted to border this quilt with green and a peach-flower print (which I had left over from another project).

I first thought I'd quilt this with white or off-white thread.  But when I auditioned the thread, I realized the white was too bright and seemed to clash.  Instead, I found that thread with a bit of gold in it worked better (the one on the left is Signature Threads' "chamois").
(click the picture above to see a larger image)
And now here's the finished quilt - and as you can see, I've goofed mightily on this one - I failed to notice th(at I clustered the darker pinks all in the center/left of the quilt instead of spreading them evenly).  It looks worse in the photo than it does in real life.  Actually - you hardly notice it at all in real life.

Hmmm... I'm thinking that when I do projects like this one, I should photograph the squares after I arrange them and doublecheck with the camera image before I stitch them together.
50" x 60" - quilted on the longarm - 100% cotton batting

Here's a closeup of the quilt top - showing my loop-d-loop free motion stitching.
And here's the backing - the same soft mossy green used on the borders.  The gold stitching really looks pretty.
And here's something that surprises me quite a lot.  A couple of weeks ago, I reported having trouble with thread fraying and splitting on the "Yellow Roses" quilt I did for my cousin.  I discussed the problem with Howard, my longarm dealer, and he suggested I use a larger needle (going from 16 to 18) - and said that the problem may have arisen because I'm sewing faster than I had been previously. At the time, I didn't think I was, but did note that swapping to an 18 needle pretty much resolved the trouble.

And this quilt proved Howard right!  I've made quilted several projects with roughly the same dimensions as this one, and yup.  I'm quilting faster.  Until now it's taken me about 3-3.5 hours to finish the quilting on a project this size. 

But this one?

I finished it in just under 2 hours!

October 27, 2016

It's been one of "those weeks"

You know this kind of week - when things just seem to take longer, when you are easily distracted, when little goofy things get in the way of what you really want to focus on.  Thank heavens it doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

So nothing new to post about at the moment - but with the long weekend coming up (associated with the Melbourne Cup holiday on Tuesday) - I'll have plenty of time to get caught up on my quilt projects and will have something to share by next Wednesday.

See you then!

October 19, 2016

Quilts 75 & 76: Christmas Table Runners

Victorian Textiles' jelly roll packs are just fabulous - and I can't resist their Christmas packs!

I pulled apart the package and separated the strips into (from the top down in the photo below) gold, green, red, cream, and "multi" prints, just so I could have a good idea of how many prints there were with those predominant colours.
I cut out a 10" square block for the center of the runner (in the photo below, the green square to the left of the strips), then selected the 8 jelly roll strips I wanted in the runner - and cut out 16 squares of 2 1/2" to make the joining pieces along the runner.

I then cut the strips down to 10" lengths -
In the photo below, you can see how I arranged the strips and squares to create the table runner.  This runner has a green-and-metallic-gold fabric in the center.  The other has the same fabric in red as the center.

The last time I did one of these runners, I meticulously trimmed away the "points" left after joining the strips together at an angle.  It wasn't until after I'd already finished the quilting that it occurred to me doing that was overkill.  All I really had to do was baste along the edge of the runner (as you see me doing in the photo below), and leave the "tip trimming" to when I'd cut the runner away from the excess after quilting. 

The quilting on these two is very simple - just free motion "loop-d-loops" in dark green thread.  The backing is plain unbleached homespun - nothing fancy, really, but even so, the stitching looks good on the back (not that anybody's ever going to really look at it).

One thing I did as an experiment (on the table runner with the red center) was quilting the ends of the runner, but leaving the large center square without quilting.  I was just curious how it would look.  Well... it looked AWFUL once I pulled it off the longarm!  Just awful.

But no worries there, all I had to do was fold the ends down and stretch it on the frame with the clamps - and I gently pinned just middle of the sides to the leader cloths (as shown below), and was able to go back and add the needed quilting into that large red center square.
The finished size on both tablerunners is 57" x 12".  I bound each runner with the same fabric I used for the large center squares in each one.  Unfortunately, by the time I got the projects done, I was in a rush to prepare for my trip to the US - and the runners were gifts for family there.  In my haste, I managed to forget to take a photo of the finished quilts!