August Achievements and September Goals

September already! The days are getting lighter and warmer, and I’m hoping to enjoy at least four weeks of nice weather before it gets too hot and I start complaining about the heat. My poor friend in Queensland is already suffering 36°C — way too hot for this time of year.

August goals:
1. AHQ: 4 generic laundry bags. I got three done instead of four — they all had the same accent fabric so it was very easy to do them together. I’ll have to cut some more kits soon so that I can make up two or three in a day if I need them quickly. JM has put out a call for bags to go to Butterworth so I’ll send these off once I’ve done a few more.

Three generic laundry bags
Three generic laundry bags

2. Personal: I didn’t set one this month.

3. FAL: Complete the Blue Christmas top and start on the quilting. Well … I finalised the design and cut the fabric but I haven’t actually set a stitch in it yet. I still have five weeks or so until the finish is due so I need to make this a priority for September.

Blue Christmas all cut out
Blue Christmas all cut out

Other work:
I’ve resumed regular progress on my second Penrose quilt. My wrists are coping with two units per night so I’ll try keep it at that and not push it. I should finish this section by the end of the month, and then I have rosettes to do.

September Goals:

AHQ: Three more generic bags for RAAF Butterworth.

Personal: I really would like to get those last two Hawaiian blocks done. I keep looking at the two pieces of stiffened fabric that are ready for the design and telling myself that I could get them done in only one or two days, just as soon as I’ve traced the design.

FAL: No time to dilly dally on this one. Get the top done, quilt it and bind it before 10 September October.

Squirrel!

Am I working on the numerous UFOs languishing in project boxes? No. Am I assembling the Oriental Stained Glass top, or making the last two Hawaiian appliqué blocks? No. Am I working on my FAL project (the only one with a deadline)? No, not even that (although I have finalised the layout and written the cutting instructions for it).

Floral fabrics from 1990s
Floral fabrics from 1990s

Instead I’ve spent the last couple of days working out an Irish Chain pattern to use up some extremely old floral fabrics that have lain on the shelves for (at best guess) twenty years. I have been wanting to get these made up for a long time but couldn’t decide on a pattern that would allow them to blend without being too bland.

Quad Irish Chain 9-grid
Quad Irish Chain 9-grid
Quad Irish Chain 7-grid
Quad Irish Chain 7-grid

I looked at various chain types and eventually chose a quadruple chain, but made in a seven-grid block rather than a nine-grid block, so there is less open space in the alternate blocks.

I also decided to use two fabrics for the centre of the alternate block rather than just one (does that make it a quintuple chain?).

Greens from stash
Greens from stash

I wanted to make this entirely from stash, but I also wanted the centre of the chain to be a green solid or tone-on-tone. Unfortunately I only liked one green (second from right) of the ones I already had, and I didn’t have nearly enough of it.

I made a quick trip to the fabric shop and found a Makower print that reads as a solid. It’s a little brighter than I would have liked but no one had the slightly greyed green that features in the leaves of the two darker florals. Luckily it doesn’t stand out as particularly jarring when next to the florals. Vanima seems to like it, anyway.

Final palette
Final palette (with bonus Vanima)

There will also be a pink inner border and possibly some pink appliqué in the alternate blocks, but I’ll decide on that once the top is done.

Quad Irish Chain design
Quad Irish Chain design

Final dimensions will be roughly 80″ x 108″ — a long double quilt or a queen topper.

July Achievements and August goals

July goals:

1. AHQ: One quilt … not quite finished. All the walking foot quilting has been done, but I had three strips 6″ wide so I decided to have yet another attempt at ruler work, using a crescent shape from the Westalee Janome sampler set I bought in January. I did manage to get the quilt to move this time (by using the medium setting and ramping the pressor foot height up to maximum) but even then the result was not good:

Ruler Work attempt
Ruler Work attempt

So this will be unpicked tomorrow and I’ll draw more straight lines that I can do with the walking foot. I should have it in the post by Friday Monday. Note: I honestly thought it was Tuesday today, not Thursday. Where did the week go?

The more attempts I make, the more I believe that the upgrade for the 9400 was not worth it. It’s a lot harder to move a quilt through a domestic sewing machine than it is to move a longarm machine over a quilt, and even with all the sticky patches I can’t stop the foot from shifting the ruler out of position. Honestly, I think I’d be better off practising my FMQ.

2. Personal: eh, not done (I’m not sure I’ll continue listing this goal as it’s almost never done).

3. FAL: still working on precise measurements for the Blue Christmas panel quit — I want to have as few seams as possible so I’m trying to work on placing the small panels in pairs rather than individually.

Additional Work:
I didn’t actually work on anything else this month but I did get two thank you letters this month from recipients of my quilts. One was physical, a lovely hand-made card:

Thank You card
Thank You card

The other was by email and included a picture of the quilt and also the laundry bag — I’m so grateful for that as I forgot to take a picture of the laundry bag myself before posting and it was a design I was particularly pleased with:

Camo Kitty Laundry Bag
Camo Kitty Laundry Bag

August goals:
1. AHQ: 4 generic laundry bags
2. Personal: Not setting one this month.
3. FAL: Complete the Blue Christmas top and start on the quilting

June Achievements and July goals

June goals:

1. AHQ: I didn’t set a goal for Aussie Heros this month as I needed a break. Break is now over (see below).

2. Personal: Finish the last two Hawaiian Blocks. Still not done (I spent much of that break playing video games so quilting work fell a bit behind). Eh, maybe next month.

3. FAL: Finish the quilting on EB and bind it. Quilting is almost done; I just have the borders left to do, and they’ll be walking foot so fairly fast. The binding won’t take long either. I’ll talk about this in a few days when I post the Q2 finish.

En Bourgogne quilting
En Bourgogne quilting

Additional Work:

I went up to Sydney for a sewing day with JM and almost completed one top for her (I was working with blocks other people had done and some of them were a bit uneven, so they needed trimming and frames added to bring them up to the required size). No photos though.

My wrists are much improved and I finished the central stars for the next part of Flame Rose without any pain. The rest of the next section comprises 70 green and black units and I don’t anticipate being finished until September at the earliest. I’m determined not to make the same mistake I made in March so hand sewing is restricted to two hours per night.

July goals:
1. AHQ: One quilt, due date 29 July — I’ve already started this and it’s a fairly simple design so no problems are anticipated.
2. Personal: Is it worth nominating the Hawaiian blocks again?
3. FAL: Not sure yet but it definitely won’t be a full-size quilt. Probably a Christmas tree panel … but I still have a few days to make the decision.

More Ruler Work Woes

I wrote in January that I was having problems with ruler quilting on the tumbling blocks mini.

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

At that time the problem was pressor foot pressure — try as I might, I was unable to get the pressor foot to lift enough to allow the quilt sandwich to move. I was using MonoPoly in the needle and Invisafil in the bobbin and it’s possible that tension issues might have contributed (although I had used those same threads with the walking foot quilting and had no problem at all).

Today I was quilting En Bourgogne and decided to try some ruler work on the B blocks. This time I am using Gütermann polyester in both needle and bobbin. I made a test run at the edge of the batting and the foot moved easily — I didn’t take a photo, unfortunately, and I pulled out the thread before starting on the quilt itself. Confident that the previous problem had resolved, I made a start on one of the blocks in the middle of the quilt. The result was … not good.

Ruler work tension issue - June 2019
Ruler work tension issue – June 2019

(Please click through to see the large photo)

Apart from the issue of moving the quilt while keeping the ruler still (which caused uneven stitching) and the extreme difficulty in getting the foot over seam allowances, the tension was way off — the bobbin thread was being pulled right through to the top. And yes, I double-checked that the pressor foot was down while I was quilting (it’s not easy to tell with the ruler foot). I’m pretty sure that I’m using the correct option within the ruler work menu — it’s a thin cotton batting with not much puffiness, as you can see from the walking foot lines I quilted earlier.

Ruler work setting
Ruler work setting

Has anyone had similar issues with the Janome 9400 or 9450?

I’d take it back to the shop where I had the upgrade installed, but they’ve moved since January and, while the technicians are the same, all the front staff have changed and I’m not confident that there is anyone there who has actually used this machine.

May Achievements and June goals

May goals:

1. AHQ: Four laundry bags for Townsville. Done. I just have to add the cords and print the letters and they’ll be ready to post on Monday. They are being posted directly to Townsville and won’t be on the AHQ blog, so here are the photos:

Laundry Bags for Townsville 1
Laundry Bags for Townsville 1

Laundry Bags for Townsville 2
Laundry Bags for Townsville 2

I’m especially pleased that I was able to sew the linings shut by hand without any thumb or wrist pain, so I should be able to resume hand-sewing in the evenings.

Memo to self: never sew by hand for more than three hours a day in future.

2. Personal: Assemble the Oriental Stained Glass top. Not done. When I started to lay out the top I found that I had managed to make some of the A blocks incorrectly, which was annoying and a little upsetting, so I set them aside to let me think about what to do. Having thought about it, I’d have to disassemble the blocks almost completely to fix the errors but I’m way too lazy for that, so I’ll have to work out a layout that minimises the errors. If anyone asks, it’s a design variation *wink*.

3. FAL: finish the quilting on EB. I’ve made progress but the quilting isn’t finished. I have another five weeks or so before the FAL due date so there’s plenty of time yet (and at least three more Stanley Cup Final games to go).

No additional work this month — partly because of my hands, partly because I was very disappointed that neither of my ice hockey teams made it further than the second round.

June goals:
1. AHQ: I’m not setting one this month — I need a break from deadlines.
2. Personal: Finish the last two Hawaiian blocks. The fabric is stiffened already, so as soon as I trace around the pattern I can cut it, glue it down and stitch it. They are both being done by machine so it’s two days’ work at most. [If I manage that early in the month, I’ll have another crack at the Oriental Stained Glass layout.]
3. FAL: finish the quilting on EB and bind it. No difficulties anticipated.

Brrr!!

It’s definitely getting colder. I haven’t been able to bring myself to put the heaters on yet (much as I would like to) because the thermometer says it’s still 20° C in the living room — and yes, that’s probably making most of you laugh but I’m a thin-blooded Aussie and anything under 23° has me thinking wistfully about woolly pullies and fluffy slippers.

The cats are also feeling the cold, and while I can tell myself to tough it out (or put on a cardigan) I don’t want them to suffer, so I brought out the heating pads and set them up a couple of nights ago. They both love the heat and have spent most of the time since then sleeping in their new warm spots. They didn’t appreciate me waking them last night to take photos and expressed themselves in their own unique ways:

Vanima on heating pad
Vanima: “Oh, take a picture if you absolutely must, but you’ll have to be content with my right profile.”
Verya on heating pad
Verya: “What are you doing, you stupid human? I’m trying to sleep here!”

I’ve completed my latest Aussie Heroes quilt and used the new Accufeed HP2 foot on the Janome 9400 for the binding. I made the happy discovery that aligning the left tongue of the foot on the edge of the binding gives me a perfect 1 mm space between the edge and the stitching line. Previously I used the walking foot that came with the machine (AD) but it’s very wide and I was never able to keep it precisely in line.

Binding in progress using HP2 foot
Binding in progress using HP2 foot
Completed binding
Completed binding

I also reverted to pinning the binding rather than using Wonder Clips, which I have found to be too easily knocked out of alignment, dragging the binding with them — I did try using washable glue between or under the clips a few times but that didn’t help much and was even more time-consuming (as well as messy). Pinning may be old-fashioned but it’s much more secure.

Free-motion quilted gum leaves
Free-motion quilted gum leaves

I also continued to work on my FMQ eucalyptus leaves — I’ve done them on a few quilts now and they’re getting better but could still use some improvement. I’ve given up on the gumnuts for the time being as I couldn’t get them to look as neat as the leaves but I’ll get back to them when I have a bit more confidence.

2 kg plastic-covered hex weights
2 kg plastic-covered hex weights

Today I finally got around to visiting the sporting goods store and bought two 2 kg weights to use with my rulers. I had been using books (of which I have many) but they are awkward to keep picking up / putting down and the dust jackets were starting to suffer, so they can go back to the bookcase now and be safe.

April Achievements and May goals

I missed my usual retrospective post around the 21st of the month — the post itself has been drafted for a while, but the quilt I’m talking about was sold long ago and the only photos I have are prints from film, so I need to get the scanner working in order to have digitised images for the blog. I’m an Olympic-level procrastinator so it hasn’t happened yet … maybe next month.

Apart from that, though, I’ve been very productive.

AHQ goal: One quilt and one laundry bag. Almost done. I’ve finished the quilt and I’m working on the laundry bag — I don’t anticipate any problems in having them in the post by 06 May.

Personal goal: make the last two Hawaiian appliqué blocks. Not done. Now that I’ve found my bottle of fabric stiffener, however, they might just get done in the next few weeks.

En Bourgogne borders
En Bourgogne borders

FAL goal: Attach borders to En Bourgogne. Done. I’ve attached the two borders, basted it (with the help of my friend Sue) and started the quilting. I’m doing straight diagonals first, and then I’ll add some FMQ later on, just to ensure that every piece is quilted. It’s a large quilt, and the batting is a little denser than I had expected and not very easy to shift around so it’s slow going.

En Bourgogne being quilted
En Bourgogne being quilted

Additional work:

Shiny squirrel attack! The Sunday before Easter I had a rush of blood to the head and made up some stained glass blocks while I was watching the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (North American ice hockey, for those who don’t follow it) — once I got into a production line it was so fast that I decided to complete the lot over the next few days. There are 15 A blocks and 15 B blocks:

Oriental Stained Glass Blocks B & A
Oriental Stained Glass Blocks B & A

I still need to assemble the blocks and attach the border to the top and right side, but I’ll leave that until next week or the week after.

I also went up to see Jan-Maree just before Easter (she’s doing very well) and helped her to sew two tops for recipients. I discovered that I have been spoiled by my Janome 9400 — I didn’t want to take it up to Sydney (it’s very heavy) so I took my little Pfaff Passport 2.0 instead. Unfortunately the Pfaff doesn’t remind me to check the pressor foot so I managed to break two needles by trying to stitch zigzag on a straight-stitch foot. Luckily the machine continued to work but I think I’ll take it in for a service before it’s used again.

I haven’t done much hand work at all — my wrists and thumbs are recovering (slowly) from the overuse I subjected them to in March, but it will be a few more weeks before I can do more than half an hour of piecing at a time. I’m hoping that hand-quilting will be a different enough movement that it won’t aggravate them, but we’ll see. The weather is definitely cooling down at night so quilting season will be here soon and I want to get started on Pentastic (the quilt in the header).

May goals:
1. AHQ: Four laundry bags for Townsville.
2. Personal: Assemble the Oriental Stained Glass top.
3. FAL: Finish the quilting on En Bourgogne.

2019 Finish-A-Long Q2 Nomination

finishalong logo 125px

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
Trimmings

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.