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! 

October 12, 2016

The Agony of Thread that Shreds

I've had my longarm since May of 2014.  Things have gone pretty well until about 5 weeks ago, when I started having trouble with the thread breaking.

I first noticed it with the "Mystic Purple Garden" quilts - I'd quilt an area roughly 1 square meter, and the thread would snap.  I's have to stop, clear up the mess on the quilt, re-thread the machine and then carefully restart, trying not to have a double-stitch mark where the restart occurred.

As you can see, it's not just snapped, but scrunched up and shredded - leaves quite a mess on the
quilt, fiddly to pick out and restart when this happens.,
After a while, the snaps were happening about about 3/4 a square meter, then 1/2 a square meter and so on.  By the time I got to Beth's Yellow Rose of Texas quilt, I was in trouble.  That quilt should have taken about 3 hours to stitch - but with the thread breaking more and more often, I actually spent about 8 hours on it - and was sweating bullets as I went because I HAD to get that one done before I left for America on Sept. 12 (I wanted to take the quilt with me so I could deliver it to Beth in person).

I pulled out the machines user manual and read through all the things that might cause this - the only one I wasn't able to rule out was the possibility that there was something in the bobbin assembly which had developed a "spur" and was catching the thread.  I was sick at heart at this idea, as would most likely mean having a service call - and possibly shipping the machine back to the manufacturer - which would mean being without the machine for weeks and weeks.

So I rang Howard, the dealer I bought it from and chatted with him.  He offered several possibilities, but I'd already ruled them out.  Finally he asked what size needle I was using.  Well.. I looked - and I've been using size 16 needles all along.  Then he asked what kind of thread:  Superior brand.  He told me he always uses 18 needs with Superior thread.

I have a few 18 needles - they came with the machine.  As he suggested, I changed the needle from 16 to 18 and well, folks.... I'm back in business.

I'm not sure what to make of it - size 16 needles for nearly 18 months and no problems until just recently.  It doesn't make sense, but there you are.

October 5, 2016

Quilt 74: Beth's Yellow Rose of Texas - DONE!

I've been wanting to do something special for Beth - who learned last November that her breast cancer has returned.  She's now battling stage 4 breast cancer - bravely facing her new "normal" (as she calls it) and doing with incredible grace and strength.  So Beth should have a quilt.

Yellow is her favorite colour, and yellow roses her favorite flower.  Together we went shopping "long distance" (I'm in Melbourne, Australia, she's in Florida) - and found this print online:

(Click this or any other picture on this page to see a larger image)

The photographs don't do it justice - it's 10 times lovelier than what you see.  Anyway, Beth likes it, so that's what we start with.

Now those roses have to be the center of the design.  Whatever I do with this, the roses are paramount and must not be upstaged by other fabrics.  I felt that a simple design would be best - something with large spaces of the print displayed.  I pulled out my Quilt Design Wizard software and got to work.  Here's what I came up with:
These simple pin-wheel blocks will be easy and straight-forward.  The blocks will be about 11.5" wide - making the triangles large enough to display the roses without chopping them up too much.

So I began by cutting out 24 7" square blocks and then cutting them diagonally, to get the triangles.  In the photo below, you can see the coordinating print I found to marry with them (Robert Kaufman, of COURSE!):
It will take 8 triangles (4 of each of the 2 fabrics) to make one block.  Here are the 8 triangles...
And here they are rotated so you can see the pinwheel.  You know where this is going, don't you?!?!
So I stitched the triangles together (as you see below) and carefully pressed the seams so that the light fabric folds OVER the dark fabric.  This is because the rose print has a fine white background, and if the dark fabric (or any loose threads) is exposed under the rose print, it will show.

I want sharp points in the center of my pinwheels.  The only way to ensure this is to stitch the triangles together - and start at the "pointy end.  That way I can carefully match up the seams and be VERY sure the points will be sharp.
So far I've got 2 rectangular blocks - now ready to join them to make the complete pinwheel.  But there's a problem.  All that fabric from the "points" is bunching up in the center of the block - and it's going to make a very distinct "bump" right in the center.  THAT I don't want.
So here's what I did (below)  I pressed that center seam from the center (instead of folding as we usually do with quilt seams.  Yeah... I know I'm breaking "the rules" - but the final product has much less of a "bump" - and because I'm going to tightly quilt this project, I'm not worried about stress on the seam.
And here it is!  First block completed (and in a very short time, I might add).  One down, 11 to go.
So off I went, merrily stitching away - whipping through these pinwheel blocks and didn't notice I had a problem until I got them all together.  Look below... can you see it?

5 of the 12 blocks are like the one on the right.  The rest are like the one on the left...REVERSED!  So...  out comes my seam-ripper (aka "unpicker") and I had to pull those 5 blocks apart and re-do them.

But it all got done.  Here's the final quilt - it turned out GREAT!
59" x 72" - polyester batting, quilted on the longarm (free motion loop-d-loops)
This is, again, one of those times when the camera fails to catch the colours.  It's so much prettier in real life than in the photo.

Below is a closeup of the stitching, showing the front and back.  I opted for simple loop-d-loops in yellow thread, which pretty much disappears into the roese print, but is visible against the dark green and slightly visible against the yellow.
All-in-all, I'm delighted with it, and VERY glad I opted to do a design with large sections in the blocks so that the roses come through so well.