Starched Fabric Update

A quick update on how the starched fabric behaved.
Before ironing
This is the block I was most worried about — the lines are narrow so there isn’t much glue holding the fabrics together, and most of the lines are on the bias. However, I was pleased to see that there was minimal stretching — just a little bit of waviness, slightly more on the bias than on the straight.
After ironing
And, as you can see, it all disappeared after ironing, so I have a beautifully flat, non-distorted block. Success!

How NOT to stencil on fabric

Stencil design
I’ve been working on a project for Aussie Hero Quilts recently and decided to stencil a design onto fabric, as it wasn’t really suited to appliqué. While the idea was fine, I made three bad choices in the process:

1. I ironed two layers of freezer paper together over a soft ironing surface, which caused the layers to wrinkle.
Stencil back, showing wrinkles
2. I compounded this error by using water-soluble PVA glue to adhere the design to the freezer paper so that the paper stretched when wet and shrank again when it dried.

3. Instead of using a brush to lay the paint onto the surface gently, I used a sponge and pressed it down on the stencil. (There was supposed to be a photo of the stencil sponge here but for some reason it won’t display properly, no matter how much I tweak the code.)

The result was absolutely awful, as you can see from this photo:
Result on fabric (very bad)
The wrinkled stencil didn’t adhere to the fabric evenly and the pressure from the sponge forced paint out under the stencil, so that instead of a neat design I had a splodgy mess. I had to throw it out (although I did salvage as much of the unpainted fabric as I could).

The freezer paper technique is valid, though – I was much more careful with this star (on a different project) that was also too small for appliqué:
Different stencil, much better result
I made sure that the two layers of freezer paper were pressed (rather than ironed) together on a hard surface, and then the design was drawn on top (traced around a small star template) and cut out. The stencil was pressed onto the fabric on the same hard surface and left to cool. The paint was laid onto the edges of the design very gently and allowed to dry before filling in the rest of the design, and there were three coats in total. The edge is about as clear as freezer paper edges get – there are tiny projections that serve to remind us that fabric is not actually flat and has a three-dimensional structure.

If you have a complex design and you don’t want to trace it onto freezer paper, you can use fusible webbing to adhere it instead since it doesn’t distort the paper as PVA glue does (I had temporarily mislaid mine which is why I used glue but given that the doubled freezer paper was already wavy I don’t think it would have improved matters much in this case).

Actual Patchwork!

Patchwork on sewing table

I spent the afternoon stitching 2.5″ and 4.5″ squares together for an AHQ quilt. I’ll press and separate them all tomorrow and then on Friday I’ll take them up to my sewing friend’s place and we’ll start laying them out.

I think this is the first patchwork I’ve done since 2020. I’ve missed it, but I don’t miss sitting at the machine for hours on end.

Sewing Day (Three Lucky Saves And A Final Snag)

[Note: all photos were taken here at home, not at Sue’s]

Every month on the fourth Friday I go up to see my friend Sue and we work on projects for Aussie Hero Quilts. Occasionally other people turn up but usually it’s just Sue and me.

I was lucky I made it yesterday — for some reason I had it stuck in my head that 24th May was next week. On Thursday night I was lying in bed, reading (as I usually do before going to sleep) when I suddenly realised that in fact 24th was the next day — and I hadn’t got anything ready! Not only that, but my alarm was set for 0930, which is a great time to wake up if you are retired and the only thing you have to do in business hours is go to the farmers’ market, but not a good time if you have to be at the other end of the city by 1000.

Laundry Bag kits May 2019
Laundry Bag kits May 2019

I got up, reset the alarm to 0730 and made a short list of what I had to get ready in the morning. Second lucky chance — I had cut a dozen laundry bag kits a couple of weeks ago after I had finished the oriental stained glass blocks, so in the morning, after I’d dragged myself out of bed, fed the cats and fortified myself with some coffee, I picked out four kits and set them aside. I also fused some web to a length of white poplin to use as write-on labels. My travelling notions container was scrutinised — threads were swapped to match the bag colours, plastic bobbins were swapped out for steel, and then all I had to do was load the machine into the wheeled tote.

Janome Combi 10 overlocker
Janome Combi 10 overlocker

My choice of machine for laundry bags is the Janome Combi 10 which is very solid and very fast. I don’t have a quarter-inch foot for her but that doesn’t matter with laundry bags, and the bonus is the two-thread overlocker on the other side which I use to finish off all those long seams (I know some people don’t bother, but it worries me to have an unfinished seam that isn’t stitched down in some manner).

Anyway, having arrived at Sue’s place and set up my working space, I started on the bags. Zig-zag stitch on the white labels went very well, and so did preparing the casement (cord channel) and attaching the two parts of the first bag. When I came to overlock that seam, however, the machine made a horrible clattering noise. I checked the workings but couldn’t see anything amiss, and when I hand-cranked it all I could hear was the knife cutting through the fabric. As soon as the pedal was depressed the noise came back so the machine is going to have to go in for a service (it’s been about two and a half years since the last one, so I can’t really complain). Bummer.

Pinking Blade
Pinking Blade

Here’s the third bit of luck — the rotary cutter with the pinking blade was still in the notions container. I don’t usually carry it around but I had put it in the container earlier in the month for a sewing day in Sydney, and since everything else I needed fitted around it I hadn’t taken it out. That meant I was able to use it to pink the edges of the long seams on the bag and its lining, and everything went swimmingly until I attempted to put all three parts together.

Unfortunately, I then hit another snag. I’d prepared the casements as I usually do: cutting off the selvedges, turning the edge twice and stitching it down. What I hadn’t done was check the width of the casement fabric against the width of my feature fabric … yes, you guessed it, the casement fabric was 4 cm longer than the feature fabric, and the casement itself was actually a smidgeon wider than the stitched bag.

Casement width
Casement width

Some days you just know the universe is against you.

I decided to call it quits and come home — I’ll get around to fixing the casement and finishing the bags later on this weekend.


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.

My First Ever String Blocks!

I’m not one to do more work than I need to, so I’ve never seen the need to create a block from five fabrics when one patterned fabric will do. However, I ended up needing them this week for my current Aussie Hero Quilt.

The request was for a landscape, and I decided on a pixelated design rather than trying to make it look realistic. All Aussie Hero quilts are around 42″ x 70″ (bunk size, plus it means only one length of backing fabric) so I tried a couple of grids to see what the optimal size would be for my pixels — the smaller the pixel square, the better the landscape detail, but also the more work it will take. I ended up deciding on a 3″ square as the base. While squares are fine for most of the picture (grass and trees) with some half-square triangles for the boundaries, I needed finer striations to represent mountain rocks, and I found that most of my darkish blue fabrics (for water) were solids. String blocks were a necessity for the mountain, and I figured I might as well make some for the sea, so I set to work, using an old Ikea instruction sheet as my base paper.* I only did six in each group, and combined with busier fabrics, HSTs and maybe even a few Y-squares or QST, there should be enough variety to please the eye.

3-inch string blocks for mountains
Mountain Blocks
3-inch string blocks for sea
Sea Blocks

*I know Bonnie Hunter recommends phone book paper but
a. Telstra stopped issuing phone books here about three years ago;
b. Our phone books definitely had smudgey ink; and
c. I buy so much from Ikea that I have multiple copies of each instruction guide and the paper is soft.