2019 Finish-A-Long Q2 Nomination

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For the second quarter of 2019, I’m nominating a larger project (but still only one). As usual, I’m linking through Sandra of Sew Of Course in Ireland.

En Bourgogne top
En Bourgogne top

This project is only eighteen months old so it barely qualifies as a UFO in my book, but I’m going to finish it off anyway.

In November 2016, Bonnie Hunter launched her annual mystery quilt, En Provence. The palette for this project was based on the lavendar farms in southern France — lavendar, purple, magenta, green and yellow. I love the palette and was very tempted to do the mystery but decided to wait until I saw the completed top. I’m glad I did, as I didn’t like the balance of colours in Bonnie’s quilt — too heavy on the dark purple and magenta for my taste.

As the year progressed, I saw other versions in different colourways and liked them better than the original. This top by Melinda Shackelford was in brown and green, and it was the one that convinced me I could make this quilt. I decided to do a version in caramel, brown, green and burgundy (hence the name change). Several times during the year I made notes and calculated fabric requirements.

En Bourgogne Block A
En Bourgogne Block A
En Bourgogne Block B
En Bourgogne Block B
En Bourgogne Block C
En Bourgogne Block C

I changed the quilt’s construction, too — Bonnie made it up as a 15″ block with 3″ pieced sashing, but I loathe pieced sashing and I saw that it could be made as three different 9″ blocks instead. I replaced the tall triangle unit with a quarter square triangle in Block B (which reduced the curve along the brown diagonals), and I used print squares instead of neutral four-patches.

I started cutting and sewing units in early October 2017. I used fabrics from my stash, ranging from greens and caramels that had been bought in 2017 all the way back to a crimson poplin which was so old it was 36″ wide (early 90s) and a dark brown print that had been used in Autum Mood (1988). I was in no hurry, and I gave myself permission to make mistakes because I wanted this quilt to be about enjoying the process rather than making a perfect project — I had spent too much time with deadlines during the year and was feeling the grind.

The method I used for the quarter-square triangles required pressing to one side rather than open, and consequently I decided to press to one side for the whole quilt. Unfortunately this made for some very bulky areas in the seams, and served to reinforce my preference for open seams.

As my AHQ commitments died down I spent more and more time on it, and towards the end I was working several hours a day. I finished setting the blocks together on 30 November. I knew that it needed a border or two, since the size (81″ square) was a little small for a queen bed, but I couldn’t decide on what fabrics to use, so it languished in a box for eighteen months.

For my FAL goal, I’m going to add two borders to the top, then quilt it. I’ve chosen the fabric for the first border (shown in the photo) but I’m still not sure about the second.


The perils of writing one’s own pattern

I had a little spare time this afternoon after finishing an Aussie Heroes quilt and I had black thread in the machine from the quilt’s binding, so I decided to make one of the Oriental Stained Glass blocks I had cut out. In the process, I discovered that I had somehow managed to add twice the seam allowance to the black sashing strips — they were supposed to be 1″ finished / 1.5″ cut, and that’s what it says on the spreadsheet and at the top of my notes page. However, further down, when I wrote the cutting instructions, I had somehow forgotten that and wrote that the strips were to be cut at 2″, finishing at 1.5″. Yikes.

83 two-inch strips of black fabric
83 @ 2-inch strips

See all those 83 strips? Every single one of them is half an inch too wide. I wasted more than a whole metre of fabric because I didn’t check my own work. So stupid. Still, the lengths are all correct and all of the oriental fabrics are cut the right size, so it’s not a complete disaster, just intensely frustrating.

There’s nothing for it but to trim all the sashes if I want to make this quilt — I decided to do it block by block as I sew them together rather than trying to do a lot at once.

Trimmings from Oriental Stained Glass Block A1

In spite of the mistake, I’m very pleased with how well the first block turned out:

Oriental Stained Glass Block A1
Oriental Stained Glass Block A1

My design inspiration was the Stained Glass Quilt designed by Bob (which luckily survived the Craftsy/Bluprint purge) but I changed the proportions and designed an alternate block to increase the variety:

Oriental Stained Glass Block A design
Oriental Stained Glass Block A design
Oriental Stained Glass Block B design
Oriental Stained Glass Block B design

Even with the additional trimming (and a couple of unsewing sessions when I sewed the sashing to the wrong edge) it didn’t take long to make a block so I’ll try and do one a week until the top’s done, and then it may feature in a future Finish-A-Long post.

2019 Finish-A-Long Q1 Finish

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Welcome to my first completed project for the 2019 FAL. I’m linking up through Sew Of Course in Ireland.

I only nominated one project in January: this 25-year-old tumbling blocks miniature.

tumbling blocks top

Stream pattern by Sara Nephew
Stream pattern by Sara Nephew

Piecing was done in 1994 in a workshop with Sara Nephew at the Australasian Quilt Convention. This particular design is called “Stream”, and features three different heights for the blocks, making a sinuous curve rather than a straight line.

I did all the in-the-ditch stitching with MonoPoly clear thread in the needle and Invisafil 100 wt polyester in the bobbin, and had no issues once I’d adjusted the bobbin tension. I intended to practice my ruler quilting using the same threads, but unfortunately I had significant problems with the ruler foot not permitting any fabric movement. I’m not sure if it was connected to the timing issues I discovered last week but I don’t think so. When I have some free time I’ll make up another sandwich and see what I can do with normal thread.

Fabric bunched up in front of the ruler foot
Ruler foot problems 1

I eventually decided to do a little more quilting in the largest blocks with the walking foot, which went well but I don’t need any more walking foot practice. I also considered doing free motion quilting in the “top” diamonds, to hide the seam allowance, but I ran out of time due to issues with another quilt. There’s enough quilting to hold all the layers together and it’s destined to cover the cutting mat or to cushion cat bottoms, so I decided that enough was enough and put the binding on.

Tumbling Blocks binding front
Tumbling Blocks binding front

As you can see, matching points with binding is not a skill I have mastered yet (which is why I usually add a border, even it’s only a narrow one). To be fair, though, my piecing wasn’t exactly great either, and seams were pressed to one side rather than open, resulting in some bulky intersections and a rather less-than-square top. If I had pieced it this year I think I would have done a better job.

Tumbling Blocks mini back
Tumbling Blocks mini back

The backing is a very old Cranston VIP print, roughly the same age as the top. I didn’t set the top squarely on the backing, as you can see, but then the top isn’t quite square anyway so I’m not fussed. I didn’t have any of the original dark green solid left, but I had another that works well, and in fact is an almost exact match for the green in the backing fabric.

Tumbling Blocks binding back
Tumbling Blocks binding back

The binding was stitched down by hand using Superior Threads Kimono 100 wt silk thread. I love using this thread for appliqué and binding — it seems to melt into the fabric and is barely visible even in close-up.

Tumbling Blocks mini finished
Tumbling Blocks mini finished

Name: Tumbling Blocks
Size: 80 x 80 cm (31.5″ x 31.5″)
Design: Stream (tumbling blocks variation) by Sara Nephew
Fabric: Cotton
Batting: Matilda’s Own 100% cotton
Pieced: 1994 by machine (Janome MemoryCraft 8000)
Quilted: January-March 2019 by machine (Janome HMC 9400 QCP)
Bound: April 2019

Lessons Learned:
1. Seam allowances matter!
2. Pressing to one side causes too much variation in thickness and contributes to uneven edges.
3. It’s hard to attach a binding to a pieced edge.

March Achievements and April goals

As usual, my monthly goals were divided into Aussie Heroes, Personal and the 2019 Finish-A-Long.

1. AHQ: make two quilts: Done. One was posted this morning, the other is in the wash and will be posted tomorrow. Pictures will be on the AHQ blog sometime.

2. Personal: none set for last month.

3. FAL: Bind the tumbling blocks mini: Almost done. I’ll post pictures and details later this week during the Q1 FAL round-up.

Additional work:

I finally got around to cutting the black sashing for my Oriental Stained Glass quilt (I cut the oriental fabrics in January). Vanima “helped”.

83 two-inch strips of black fabric
83 @ 2-inch strips
Sashing strips bagged
OSG sashing strips
Vanima lying on cutting table
Vanima “helping” me to cut fabric

I also finished tier 3 of the Penrose tile quilt I’m doing — I posted about that here. I’ve started work on the next section but I doubt I’ll get very far before the cold weather sets in and I can start quilting Penrose 1 (the quilt in the header).

Finally, I made 15 appliqué heart blocks and sent them off to New Zealand (details here).

April goals

1. AHQ: One quilt and bag for a recipient in the Middle East. I also want to make some laundry bags for Townsville — many ADF members lost their quilts and laundry bags along with everything else during the monsoon floods in January — we can’t replace everything but we are doing our best to get everyone a new laundry bag.

2. Personal: the final two (out of twenty) Hawaiian appliqué blocks.

3. FAL: to be determined (I think I know which project I’ll choose, but I might change my mind).

Machine musings

Janome 9400 back from the repair shop 27 March 2019
Janome 9400 QCP

I got my machine back on Tuesday afternoon (having taken it in on Monday morning) — great service. The bobbin timing had been knocked out, which isn’t surprising, and they had to replace the bobbin holder.

I thought that the crash had come out of the blue, but as I was stitching down the binding on the quilt last night I noted that the serpentine stitch in the border had a lot of stitches missing at the right hand edge of the design, so obviously there was a pre-existing timing problem that I hadn’t noticed. I had to unpick it all, of course, which took a couple of hours, and I’m not sure if it’s worth replacing, since the whole point of the serpentine stitch was to hold the border in place while I attached the binding, and the binding is now in place. (The border is only an inch wide — I only added it because I hate attaching a binding to an edge that has multiple seams.)

Pfaff Passport 2.0 attempting quilting 26 March 2019
Pfaff Passport 2.0

I found that while the Pfaff Passport 2.0 is great for piecing and appliqué (it did all the hearts at the weekend) it’s not so good at quilting. Even with the Integrated Dual Feed in place I was getting a lot of drag on the top layer of this quilt, so unpicking that is this evening’s task. I’m not fussed that it can’t do quilting, actually — it’s a small machine and it’s perfect for taking to sewing days and retreats so I’m still very happy that I bought it. Besides, I have several other machines I can turn to for quilting if the 9400 is out of commission, like the Janome Combi 10 which I used for the binding on the other quilt.

Janome Combi 10 27 March 2019
Janome Combi 10

Healing Hearts for Christchurch

Helen Thomas at Angels in Gumboots is coordinating a drive for heart blocks to make quilts for the families affected by the shooting ten days ago. I grabbed a bunch of green fabrics and made up 15 appliqué blocks over the weekend. They’ll go into the post tomorrow or Wednesday. If you are interested in contributing, the info is here.

Heart blocks for Christchurch
Heart blocks for Christchurch

In other news, my Janome 9400 pitched a fit last night while I was quilting a border and has gone in for repairs. I don’t know exactly how it happened but the bobbin holder was pulled right out of its position and had a gouge out of one side (the needle, strangely enough, remained intact). I was doing a serpentine stitch at the time and none of my other Janomes has the same stitch which is annoying. The Pfaff has one that is similar but not identical, so I’ll use that and hope that the recipient doesn’t mind that one border isn’t quite the same.

Happy Worldwide Quilting Day!

Worldwide Quilting Day logo

I didn’t do any actual quilting today but I did do a fair amount of piecing, both by machine and by hand. The machine work was for an Aussie Hero quilt so no pictures. The hand work was finishing tier 3 on my second Penrose tiling quilt, Flame Rose.

I finished tier 2 on 30 October last year. This is the central portion of the quilt.

Fiamma Tier 2 rose
Flame Rose centre, 2018-10-30

Today I finished tier 3. The picture below shows only one “petal” — there are five altogether, arranged around the centre portion. It looks a lot darker than the centre because it’s photographed at night and on cream, whereas the centre was shot in the day and on white.

Flame Rose Tier 3 2019-03-16
Flame Rose Tier 3 2019-03-16

I’m actually impressed that I managed to get so much done in only four and a half months. I have to admit, though, that my wrists are not happy so I’m going to try and take it a little more slowly for the next section. There’s no more yellow/orange/red in the top, the next part is green, and then there will be some browns in the corners. I’m not sure how much I’ll get done before it’s time to switch to actual quilting once the weather cools down, but it doesn’t really matter anyway — this is a personal project with no deadline so it will take as long as it takes.

February Achievements and March Goals

I had three goals for February:

Homeless 3 web

AHQ: Finish and bind three AHQ quilts. These were used for demonstrations in the HandiQuilter booth at the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair last year, so were partially quilted. When I saw them at Jan-Maree’s place a couple of months ago I offered to finish the quilting and bind them, so that they can be given to a charity for the homeless. I finished two and gave them to JM when I saw her earlier in the month, but forgot to take any pictures. This is the third. There is actually a fourth one as well but it’s a bit different and more difficult so I’ll talk about that another time.

Personal: Cut black sashing for oriental stained glass quilt; put borders on another quilt. Not done. There was no deadline for these items and I was busy with other stuff so no regrets — they’ll keep.

Ruler foot problems 1
Ruler foot problems 2

FAL: Ruler work on the tumbling blocks mini. Not done. I’m having trouble getting the ruler foot to work properly on the Janome 9400 — the presser foot doesn’t lift at all while in ruler mode (I knew it wouldn’t move as much as the normal FMQ foot but I expected it to move a little bit), so I’m having great difficulty moving the quilt underneath and the fabric just bunches up. I’ve adjusted the pressor foot height to its highest point and the pressure to its lowest, so I don’t know what else I can do to get it to work. I think I’ll have to take it back into the shop, which is really inconvenient as I have more work to do this month (see below).

Additional work:

I finished my personal January goal (bind two minis) a little late and posted the quilts here.

I also completed another AHQ quilt (the landscape for which I was making the string blocks). The original due date was 11 March, so I was going to make this my AHQ goal for next month. However, I finished the quilt very early and I’m just finishing off the laundry bag now so it’ll be posted on Monday. Meanwhile, the AHQ request list grew rather large so I picked up two requests on 25 February that have a due date of 01 April, and they will be my March goals instead.

Here are some of the string blocks in the quilt (I can’t show the whole thing, sorry).

Strip blocks in AHQ quilt

As always, I worked on the Flame Rose quilt most evenings. I’m still on track for finishing the tier 3 rose in April.

March goals
AHQ: Make two quilts (one Navy, one Army)
Personal: I’m not setting one this month as I have two military quilts to do.
FAL: Bind the tumbling blocks mini (even if I have to finish the quilting with a walking foot).

Retrospective: 1988-1990 Autumn Mood

Welcome to the second in my series of posts showing quilts I completed in years gone by.

Quilt in dark green and brown, 80 by 80 inches

Size: 203 x 203 cm (80″ x 80″)
Design: traditional Duck and Ducklings and Shoo-Fly blocks in my own arrangement
Fabric: cotton
Batting: polyester high loft (from a roll, unknown brand)
Backing: cotton
Pieced: by machine (Janome Combi) May 1988
Quilted: by hand 1989/90
Bound: September 1990

This was the second top I pieced, and the first quilt I finished (for a rather odd definition of finished).

In 1988 I decided to have a second attempt at machine piecing. I chose the Duck and Duckling pattern, made cardboard templates and cut out all the pieces with scissors. I made 13 brown blocks, sewing them together using the presser foot of my sewing machine as a guide. The green blocks were supposed to be Duck and Duckling as well, but I didn’t like cutting out and sewing all those small triangles so used the simpler Shoo-Fly block instead.

Unfortunately, I still hadn’t worked out that the presser foot on my Janome Combi was approximately 5/16″ from the needle (and the needle position was not adjustable on that machine). Consequently, when it came to setting all the blocks together with sashing, it was extremely difficult, since the block edges were short by quite a lot in the corners. Not wanting to trim the blocks and lose my triangle points, I adjusted the seam allowance instead, from 1/4″ at the centre of each edge down to around 1/16″ at the corners (I reinforced them with nail polish). Despite this problem, I finished the top and it doesn’t look too bad, though some of the triangle points still aren’t where they are supposed to be.

I was living in southern Victoria at the time, in an old and poorly heated building, so of course I wanted the quilt to be warm. I bought the thickest off-the-roll polyester batting I could find, not realising that batting this thick is supposed to be tied, not quilted. I basted the three layers together and started to hand-quilt, in a bastard cross between in-the-ditch and outline. The thickness of the batting meant that I got only three stitches to the inch. By the time I had finished quilting the blocks I was exhausted and had no energy to contemplate quilting the borders. I bound the edges, put safety pins in the border and used it like that for the next twenty-five years (obviously it was never washed during that period).

Some of the seams are starting to give way, and some of the hand quilting is coming undone. I’ll get around to repairing it one day.

Lessons learned:
1. Know your equipment!!
2. Know what techniques are suited to each type of batting.
3. Quilts are very resilient even when shoddily made.