Monday, November 29, 2010

Fussy Framed Block - Tutorial

This block combines fussy cutting (so your favourite prints can become the star of the block) as well as the stack and slash method, so there's very little wastage of fabric and the outer border will look continuous around the framed fussy cut part. You will be making two blocks at a time and if you maintain a scant 1/4" seam when piecing you wont need to trim your blocks at the end. It may seem a little tricky at first, but if you follow the steps carefully you'll get the hang of it quickly.

For each pair of blocks you will need fabric with a large print to fussy cut and one with a small print (that doesn't need to be fussy cut). You will also need two 1" strips (selvedge to selvedge) of solid fabric (I have opted to use lots of different colour solids in my quilt, but you may choose to use just one solid fabric). I cut my blocks 10 1/2" x 10 1/2, but you can cut them whatever size you like as long as they are the same size and there's a couple of inches all the way around the print you want to fussy cut. You wont lose anything in the length, but you will lose 1" in width, so my finished blocks will measure 9 1/2" (wide) x 10 1/2" (tall) raw edge to raw edge.

Stack and iron your two squares of fabric on top of each other, carefully matching the edges. Ironing helps them stay together as you cut them. Make sure the fabric that you want to fussy cut is on the top and the print on the bottom square is aligned correctly (especially if it has a directional print)

Place pins around the image you want to see in your final fussy cut window. Ensure the pinned image is atleast 1 1/2" away from all sides of your block.

Line up your ruler parallel to the side of your block and make a cut 3/4" away from the left side of your pinned area (see photo). I made a guide by cutting a 3/4" strip of white (from scraps) that I placed momentarily on my block to make it easier to judge where to cut.

Using your ruler and rotary cutter cut through both layers.

Turn your cutting board around and do the same on the opposite side, cutting 3/4" outside the pinned area.

Turn the cutting mat again so you can cut below the pinned image. Move the two side strips you just cut slightly to the side (but still maintain their position and orientation). Aligning the ruler so it is parallel to the bottom of your block, make a cut 1/4" away from the bottom of the pinned area (not 3/4" this time). I just eyeballed the 1/4", but you could cut a 1/4" strip from scraps or use 1/4" tape as a guide if you wanted.

Do the same to the top of your block, cutting 1/4" away from the pinned area.

Now, this is important ... you need to cut a 1/2" strip from the left and a 1/2" strip from the right of your pinned middle piece.

And then discard those 1/2" strips you just cut (they will be the only bits of fabric wasted from the blocks).

Take out the pins and arrange the block pieces so the small print fabric surrounds the larger print, and the larger print surrounds the small print fabric. Make sure you maintain the orientation of the outer strips. Decide which 1" solid fabric will go with each block.

I added a pin to the centre of my inner rectangle to maintain the correct orientation (force of habit) but this really isn't necessary.

Working on one block at a time...

With right sides together sew the solid strip to the bottom of the inner rectangle (the fussy cut part). Make sure you use an accurate 1/4" seam. Trim the strip in line with the rectangle.

In a similar fashion add a solid strip to the top of the rectangle. Iron seams away from the centre.

Add a solid strip to the left and right side of your block, trim and iron seams outward.

Then add the top and bottom outer strips, ironing seams outwards as you go. If you have cut and pieced accurately the strips should fit nicely without any trimming. If you do need to trim a little, no big deal!

Add the left and right strips and iron seams outwards.

There you have it!

My block looks a little skew - I must have ironed a little too vigorously! But I'm sure it will all come together nicely once I add sashing.

Now you can put your other block together in the same manner. The design on the outer fabric should look continuous (except for a small loss in the seams).

Please let me know if any of this doesn't make sense or you have any questions. I usually get one or two people to proof read/test my patterns before I put them out, but I haven't had a chance to do that with this one yet. I'll post new blocks as I make them.

I would love to see blocks you make using this tutorial (and any other quilts that are inspired by my patterns or quilts). Today I finally started a flickr group, so please feel free to add your photos. Its looking a little pathetic at the moment with nothing in it :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Australian Quilt Market recap

I had a fantastic time at Quilt Market in Melbourne last weekend. It was great just getting away for a night without the kids (thanks Ellen and Regan for taking great care of my little ones!) and even better spending time with some wonderful people. Becky and I left early Saturday morning to catch a flight  and we found this waiting on our hotel pillow when we arrived - a hand made gift from Saffron.

Me, Saffron and Becky
What a sweetie! Saffron Craig's stand was gorgeous, and a welcome place to take a load off and look at all the wonderful designs that she's bringing out. Boy, she's been so busy! Even though I'm having a girl, I'm still keen to play around with her adorable Beetle Bugs fabric.

C'mon peoples, I'm pregnant and have been up since 3am!

It was also fantastic to meet Toni from Make it Perfect in person and see her wonderful new book which has just come out this week (signed copies are now shipping HERE). What a lovely and very talented person she is, and so much fun - it felt like we were old friends almost instantly.

Me, Toni, Becky
Other inspiring people that I had the pleasure to talk to were Melanie from Melly and Me (check out her great giveaway), Kellie from Don't Look Now! (AMAZING quilting), Sarah Feilke who co-authored Material Obsession, Elissa from the fabulous Kelani Fabrics (I'm not sure how much she appreciated us looking over her shoulder 'helping' her pick fabrics for her shop, but is was so much fun), and the girls from Umbrella Prints (very exciting hand printed fabrics).  There wasn't too much fabric I hadn't already seen on the internet but it was great seeing fabrics up close and personal. Becky and I spent quite a bit of time oohing and ahhing over Kokka's new ranges.

I bought some hand dyed wool felt from Hatched and Patched that I will use for doll's hair - lovely stuff.

That evening the four of us (Becky, Saffron, Toni and I) went out for dinner and talked until early in the morning. It was wonderful sharing ideas with such talented, inspiring and generous people.  By the time we crashed at 3am we realised we'd been up for 24 hours! I can't remember the last time I've done that, but it was so worth it. I've come away refreshed and motivated. Maybe one day when I grow up I'll have a stand at Quilt Market too.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

That Girl ... Quilt Along

I'm so late on the quilt along hosted by Jennifer at That Girl... That Quilt that its getting ridiculous, so I thought I had better show you where I'm up to before the whole thing finishes.  I'm just making a baby sized quilt so it wont take me long to catch up. This is my first quilt along and ofcourse I couldn't just follow the directions like a normal person, I had to change it up a little. I liked the white bordering the fussy cut fabrics, but some of the fabrics were mainly white so I added a thin border of Kona Cotton Ash first. I was going to go with Kona Cotton Pink for the background fabric, but when it arrived it looked a little peachy, so I went with peony instead. I didn't have enough .... yada yada yada... so it might take a little longer for the fabric to arrive before I can finish.

Its going to be very pink, but there's lots of blues in the Heather Ross prints so I think it will balance out nicely.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post about choosing a sewing machine. It was so helpful. I'm getting a new machine as a Christmas present and am very excited about it. Its kind of fun waiting for something so cool. I'll let you know what I chose when it arrives!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mega Quilter or Grand Quilter or Janome or Juki?

This is my sewing machine - Janome MyExcel 23L. A few years ago when I first started quilting my lovely mother in law, Cyndy, lent it to me (and I just never gave it back!) I think its about 20 years old but its been great. I've done all of my piecing and quilting on this little worker (even free motion quilting with no extension table). I bought a darning foot for free motion quilting and a walking foot, but that's about all I've spent on it. I have no designated sewing area. Most evenings when the kids have gone to bed I get her out and pop her on the freshly wiped kitchen table, and then a few hours later I pack her away again. Before I became obsessed with quilting I used to think that it was such a hastle to get out the sewing machine, but its so easy, it literally takes 30 seconds.

Up until now I haven't needed or desired another machine, but recently on bigger quilts she seems to be labouring a little, and dragging the fabric a little. I'm finding it hard to get a really even quilting stitch, particularly on heavier weight linen/cotton fabrics. I think I may be outgrowing her :)

So the other day I popped into my local quilting/sewing machine shop - All About Sewing - and tried out the Husqvarna Viking Mega Quilter. I was completely blown away! It was an absolute dream to sew on. It quilted so fast and so evenly, just like cutting through butter. It is a semi industrial machine with a larger harp (almost 9") so its easier to quilt bigger quilts. It only sews a straight line, so although it can do free motion quilting there's no zigzag. There's no fancy embroidery stitches, but really, I'm never going to use that anyway (I'll need to hold onto my old machine for the few times I want to do a zigzag or button hole). It also comes with a big extension table making free motion quilting so much easier, instant needle up or down setting, threader, thread cutter (what a luxury) and a knee lift so you don't have to take your hands off your quilt. In a nutshell, this is a quilting work horse, it does one stitch but it does it really really well.

I don't part with large sums of money easily, so I've done a lot a research on this baby, and here's what I've worked out:
  • The Husqvarna Viking Mega Quilter, the Janome 1600P QC and the Pfaff Grand Quilter are all made in the same factory (Janome) and are exactly the same machine, just with a few cosmetic differences
  • The Janome 1600P QC has an extra light
  • The Juki TL-98P is essentially the same machine as well, but comes with more feet attachments and a thread cutter on the foot pedal as well as the machine, however the extention table isn't quite as big (12" x 23" instead of 16" x 24" on the others). It also seems that the Juki weighs less at 11.5kg, whereas the others weigh about 16kg. The Juki has no speed adjustment on the machine, whereas the others have a fast/slow slidey thing. All pretty minor differences really.
  • It seems like none of them come with a quilting bar/guide, which is a pity because that can really come in handy for straight line quilting. None (except the Juki) come with a walking foot, but I think you only need a walking foot if using delicate or very thick fabric. The Mega Quilter quilted my sample beautifully with the normal foot that comes with it.
  • At the moment in Australia the Mega Quilter (normally $1699) and the the Janome 1600P QC (normally $1999) are both on special for $1499. The Janome also comes with a bonus pair of scissors and a toy sewing machine.
So anyone have experience or thoughts on any of these machines? I'm leaning towards the Janome. Please feel free to correct me if any of my info is wrong.

By the way, I had a fantastic time at Quilt Market with Becky, Saffron and Toni and I'll post pictures soon, as well as the tutorial for those blocks in the previous post.

One more thing. I try to respond to comments and questions as much as I can, but if you comment and don't hear back from me you're probably set to 'no reply'. Toni, from make it perfect, had just posted a quick 'how to' with pictures on her blog HERE.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Designing a new block - the process

I've had an idea for my Far Far Away 2 fabrics ever since they were released, but am only now just getting around to playing with this beautiful fabric. So here's what I wanted in my new quilt block...

I wanted the fabrics to be fussy cut to show off the adorable characters but also incoporate the stack and slash method, so that there was no (or very little) wastage of fabric. I also wanted to avoid having to trim the blocks at the end (its not my favourite job), and I wanted to use a little bit of solids to break it up, but not too much.

So before I cut into the good stuff, I did some experimenting

Nope, too much trimming and wastage of fabric there. Lets try another way of cutting it up.

This way works better, not much wastage, but I would still have to trim the block and the little lines don't match up. Lets try making the blue a little wider.

Now that's what I'm talking about! No trimming needed at all. The other benefit of it coming together without trimming is that the outer border will look continuous (except for a little loss in the seams). So now lets try it on the real thing.

I like it. I think it will make a lovely quilt.

Anyone interested in a tutorial on how to make this pair of blocks?

I'm off to Australian Quilt Market in Melbourne this weekend - a trade only event kind of like Houston, but a smaller version (can anything be bigger than Houston?). I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mermaiden Party!!

As I said in my last post, all the girls in the family became quite excited about Hillary Lang's Wee Wonderfuls book and were keen to make one of her adorable little dolls. Before I knew it five of us, Becky, her sister Jordy, and my sister in laws Kaila and Sierra, were gathered together on a Friday evening eating pizza and chocolate pie (and staying up way too late) to make cute little Mermaiden dolls together. We thought we'd start with something simple that we could pretty much finish in an evening.

My mermaiden doll - don't you love those squishy little hips!

We all shared one sewing machine, so things took a little longer...

Plus, there were some shenanigans.... For these two it was actually and their first time on a sewing machine (or first time in a long time). It was so exciting to see them enjoy sewing (maybe next time we can try a dolls quilt?).

We had such a fun night. I don't know why we don't do things like this more often. This photo shows where we got up to by the end of the night. They were looking like they were ready for bed!

Later on, when they were looking more respectable, it was time for a photo shoot!

She was really fun to make and fortunately she not only appears in "Wee Wonderfuls", but it is also available as a free pattern HERE. Thanks Hillary!

I think a whole mobile of little mermaids would be just adorable in the baby's room!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wee Wonderfuls... and my first doll

I was absolutely thrilled to find this book - Wee Wonderfuls by Hillary Lang - on my doorstep recently (kindly sent to me by Abrams Books - thankyou!). I had secretly wanted to try making a doll ever since I saw dolls from this book on a couple of blogs, but I wasn't sure that I would be able to drag myself away from my quilts long enough to warrant buying the book. However, from the first peek I was smitten with the many gorgeous projects in this book and I couldn't help but start on my first doll that very same day.

There were so many incredibly cute projects to choose from, with each doll or toy having their own personalities. Hillary shows you lots of different techniques in the various dolls, and so once you've made a couple you could easily mix and match the features you want on your doll (eg. felt or yarn hair).

The photography is gorgeous and there are tonnes of step by step diagrams so that even a beginner doll maker like me felt confident to try one of the more challenging projects. There's also a section at the back that goes through basic doll making techniques - a great resource. I would definitely recommend this book!

Eddie is certainly on the list for my son - just have to find that hair.

And those Sleep over Pals are just too cute!! They look like they'd be nice and quick too.

But the doll that really captured my heart and imagination was Margot, the topsy turvy doll. I would have LOVED one of these when I was a girl. She's two dolls in one - or should I say, the same girl, just dressed down, ready to work...

... and dressed up ready to go out.

Isn't she just adorable!

Not perfect, but not bad for a first attempt I say.

I finally let my kids near her and they're just as smitten.

 Even Dane keeps telling me "She's really really cute."

I'm thrilled with how she turned out and have already started on another of the dolls. Actually, when  I started showing the book around to family members it caused such a stir that we ended up having an impromptu wee wonderfuls doll making party, which was a blast! I'll show photos soon.

You can find Hillary's Wee Wonderfuls book online HERE and HERE and lots more crafty inspiration on her blog.