Friday, February 25, 2011

Sherbet Dreams and a Giveaway!

Ever since designing my Sea Views quilt, I've wanted to try another simple design with curved piecing. When I got my hands on one of Aneela Hoey's fantastic Sherbet Pips layer cakes (42, 10" squares) it was the perfect time to give it a go.

I absolutely adore this fabric - the colours, the cute prints, the great coordinates - and I can't wait for yardage to come out in April. I think the wavy lines show off the prints well (I tried to avoid cutting through the centre of the swings and scooters as I free-hand cut the curves). This was a quick and very satisfying quilt to put together. If you haven't tried sewing curves without pins, I would highly recommend giving it a go. It's easier than you think! Although, I probably wouldn't try it for my first quilt :)

When I emailed Aneela with a photo of the quilt, she kindly suggested that the curves gave it a dreamy quality - so I incorporated that into the quilt's name "Sherbet Dreams". I thought you may like to hear some of the discarded names - "Childhood Dreams" "Dreamy Pips" "Around the Bend" "Bend it like Kate" "A little Bent" (thanks Todd for the fun suggestions!)

And thanks Dane for helping out with the photo shoot.

As the yardage wasn't out yet, I found this red/white dot fabric, but was a little nervous that it might bleed onto the quilt, so I washed it, and then it wasn't wide enough anymore - doh! So I tried piecing a long wavy white line down the back. After some trial and error, I finally got it to work without puckering. It's great how mistakes can push you to try new things.

So, now to the giveaway... to win half a Sherbet Pips layer cake (21, 10" squares - enough to make this quilt) as well as the Sherbet Dreams quilt pattern, just leave a comment telling me a favourite childhood memory. It could be something funny, naughty, an accident, a favourite past time... whatever. The giveaway is open to everyone and I'll randomly pick a winner Tuesday 1st March. - Giveaway closed thanks!

A childhood memory that comes to mind is when I scribbled all over my baby sister's face with pen. I don't actually remember doing it, but there's photographic evidence, and I wouldn't put it past me (sorry Amelia)!

The Sherbet Dreams pattern (containing instructions for two sizes, but not the pieced back) is available from my downloadable patterns page and will be 20% off until the giveaway finishes.

Good luck everyone! Can't wait to hear your memories :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is that a compliment?

The other day a visitor was asking me about my quilting, and I showed him my profile in Australian Homespun magazine. He said "Wow that's a nice photo, is it airbrushed?" "No" I laughed "it was just taken by my husband in the backyard." I didn't tell him it had taken three hours to blow-dry and straighten my hair, paint my toenails and shave my legs (not sure why I did all that for a head shot! - maybe it just made me feel more glamorous). I'm starting to feel big and uncomfortable now. I'm looking forward to getting dressed up for my sister's wedding on the weekend.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that fortunately Australian Homespun IS available overseas (sorry for any confusion in my magazine post). It's such a fresh and funky magazine. Let me know if you can't find it, and I can point you in the right direction!

My "Blowing in the Wind" quilts are currently hanging at Hettie's Patch - if you're in the area. I think they have most of the prints available too. I recently enjoyed a visit to Sprout Design as well. They have a fantastic little shop where I just drooled over all of their fabric. I must visit again, minus the two year old. Do any of you go to fabric shops with little children? I find it a little trying to say the least! Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou to those shops that have toys for little ones to play with :) Sometimes they don't want to leave they're having such a great time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Scissor girl strikes again!

You would think I had learned my lesson after the haircutting fiasco, but no... I left out my good sewing scissors.

Fortunately it was just the quilting gloves that got the chop and not the quilt - whew!

Mum called me after it happened and the message went something like this. "Kate dear (very serious tone)... I'm just calling because Sarah has cut off three fingers ... (a pause that seemed way too long at the time while my heart skipped a beat)... from your quilting gloves... (my heart starts beating again as I sigh a massive sigh of relief!)... I just wanted to let you know so you could buy another pair while you're out if you needed to."  Mum... don't scare me like that!

Luckily gloves are cheap and easily replaceable (unlike little fingers), but quilting gloves don't work so well like this! (I feel a little like I'm back in the 80's)

But it takes more than that to stop me from quilting :) Fortunately I found these little thingies for the ends of my fingers in my sewing bag and they work just fine.

By the way, recognise the fabric? I've loved working with it! There's a new pattern brewing and I can't wait to show it to you :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fussy Fairytales Quilt Pattern Finished!

First of all, thanks so much to my pattern readers/testers! You guys did a fantastic job of picking up a few little things that I'd missed (I start to go cross-eyed after reading it through for the billionth time), and you were all so speedy!!

I can honestly say that I love this quilt! I love everything about it. The fabrics are amazing, and I'm so happy with how the whole thing came together. This quilt is going to my sister in law - Kaila - as a belated Christmas/birthday present. She's a pink girl so I added a pink back, binding and quilting.

It's entirely hand quilted. At first I was going to machine quilt in the sashing, but I was eager to get started on it while I was away at Christmas time, so I just hand quilted a double line in the sashing and around the centre panel (in a pale pink egyptian cotton).

The blocks were hand quilted with a dark pink perle cotton...

as were the floating squares in the border.

It took a while to hand quilt the border, but I love it. I was actually sad to finish it. One day I'll make another one of these for my daughter.

You can read more about this quilt here, and the pattern is available from my downloadable patterns page.
Addit: I used 18 fat quarters of Far Far Away II fabric and 13 different solids (specific colours outlined in the pattern).

Kaila, if you're reading - Happy Birthday and I hope you like your quilt :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Blowing in the Wind - A New Quilt

It was such a thrill to see my quilt in Homespun magazine this week (the first project in the "Oh-So-Fresh" issue)!

Australian Homespun is a brilliant magazine, and so it was particularly humbling to have my profile featured on their pages.

I originally (and not very creatively) called this quilt "Baby Mobile", as that was the idea behind the its creation. Lovely little "pictures" of fabric hanging from a mobile. It features amazing fabric from two Australian designers - Saffron Craig's gorgeous owls and trees and Sprout Design's wonderful little squirrels and birds in trees (they tied in so well together). The name was changed to "Blowing in the Wind", which I think is great.

It was fun making a second (girly) version using Saffron's Fields range (in the squares)

and trying a different way of quilting the same design. Fortunately its a quick one to make.

So, if you're interested in making your own "Blowing in the Wind" quilt - you can find all the instructions in Homespun Vol 12 - 2 issue! I'm not sure if its available overseas - sorry!  Australian Homespun is available overseas - yay - contact me if you have trouble finding it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hand quilting tutorial

I love hand quilting. It takes longer, but gives a lovely handmade look, and its much more sociable than noisy machine quilting. My technique for hand quilting is not necessarily the 'right' way, its just how I do it, and its not difficult. Its a matter of practicing and not insisting on perfection straight away. It doesn't bother me that my stitches aren't always even, otherwise I don't think I'd enjoy hand quilting much.

My tools include Perle Cotton no. 8, size 24 chenille needles, thimble with a ridge around the top and sharp scissors. I put these things in a little zippered purse and keep it with the quilt I'm working on so I can take it with me easily.
I don't use a hoop. I tried using one for my first quilt, but I just found it a pain to keep moving it around. So now I just rest the quilt on my lap (or sometimes tuck my feet up on the couch and drape the fabric over my knees) and grip the fabric with my left hand. I'm careful not to push up too much from underneath, but just try to hold it neutrally. I grip the fabric between my thumb and palm, and spread my fingers under the quilt, with my middle finger under the place I'm sewing.

For this project, I made sure I ironed my seams outwards so that I could use the shadow of the 1/4" seam allowance as a guide. That way, I didn't have to mark my quilt or use quilters tape as a guide.

Start by threading the needle with a length of cotton. It's meant to be about 18", but I must admit, I make it as long as possible, so I don't have to re-thread so often :) Tie a single knot in the end (you may need a double knot if using a thinner thread). Insert the needle about an inch away from where you want to start quilting, going through the top layer and batting (but not the backing fabric!) and bring the needle up where you want to start quilting.
Pull the thread...
until the knot pops into the batting and lodges there. I scratch the little hole it leaves to make it disappear.
To make your first stitch decide on your stitch length and hold the needle perpendicular (at a right angle) to the fabric, so the needle goes straight through (not at an angle). You will feel it prick your finger on your left hand at the back of the quilt (for me its my middle finger that I keep extended underneath the quilt). I don't wear any protection on that finger, and I've never had a problem with it getting sore or anything. I like to travel the needle along a little at the back so it makes pretty stitches on the back as well as the front (but I think I need to work on making these shorter as sometimes the stitches on the back are bigger than on the front).
Rock the needle back with your thimbled middle finger and put your thumb just in front of where the needle is to come out so that the needle comes straight through the layers.
Push your needle to the desired stitch length and then rock the needle up again so it is at a right angle to the fabric. Make your next stitch in the same manner, trying to keep your stitch length even.
Rock the needle back and forth to make a few stitches on your needle (I don't really touch my needle much, except with the end of the thimble).
When you have made a few stitches, push the needle through with your thimble...
and pull the thead so the stitches are taut but not puckered. When you start you may want to make one or two stitches at a time to try to keep your stitch length pretty even (remember it doesn't have to be perfect). Now repeat that lots and lots of times! Adjust the quilt on your lap as you go, so the part you're quilting sits flat and isn't being pulled askew.
When you're ready to finish your row of stitches (or you run out of thread), bring your needle up to where you want to finish. In the pictured example I was completing a square design, so I brought the needle up very close to the hole through which I started. This way, it will make a square on the back as well as the front of the quilt, and you wont be able to tell where you started and finished quilting.
Make a knot that sits right on top of your quilt. I hold my needle point at the hole as I pull the thread to help  the knot sit in the right place.

Now, insert your needle into the same hole that you just came out of, travel through the batting (but not backing fabric) and emerge about an inch away.
Pull the thread so the knot is pulled into and lodges in the batting. Massage the fabric so the hole disappears.
Cut the thread close to the surface (being careful not to cut the fabric), and massage the thread tip into the fabric so you can't see it.
That's it!
A cushion or a baby quilt might be a good place to start.

There are many different ways to hand quilt, and hopefully by sharing what I do, you can find what works best for you and develop your own technique. Please feel free to ask a question, or to share a tip. Happy hand quilting!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pattern proof reading... anyone?

Does anyone have time to read over a pattern for me over the next few days? I've just finished the "Fussy Fairytales" quilt and pattern and am also working on another one (yet to be revealed). I just need a couple of people to read over the pattern to make sure it makes sense and give me some honest feedback. I will, ofcourse, give the pattern proof-readers a copy of the final pattern/s once finished.

Thanks in advance!

Thanks for your fantastic response. I really appreciate it! Unfortunately I wont need all of you to proof read this time, but I'll keep this list as a reference for the future. I always have patterns brewing :)

And, what's a post without a picture...

My sister, Amelia and I had a fun sewing weekend making these cushions for Toni and Carli to say thanks for all their hard work on the Queensland Flood Appeal. What they achieved and inspired in others was truly amazing!

It was all Amelia's idea. She is such a generous and thoughtful sister and friend. She somehow managed to snag some of Saffron Craig's yet to be released "Magical Lands" fabric - isn't it stunning (I've just had word that Magical Lands is released!!) - and Amelia taught me how to make cushions (they're really easy!). She also took lots of photos of me hand quilting so I could finally post a tutorial outlining how I do it. Hopefully that's up next.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Finnish Oven Pancake

also known as Pannukakku (what a fun word to say!), is another of my favourite Finnish recipes (you can find the recipe for Pulla here). It has the same basic ingredients that you would put in your ordinary pancake, only you don't have to slave over the stove flipping pancakes - just mix it together and pop it in the oven. It has a soft custardy consistency that the kids (and I) just love.

2 tablespoons butter
4 cups milk
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup plain flour
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200C or 400F. Put the butter in a 9"x12" baking pan and put the pan in the oven until the butter is melted. Take the pan out of the oven and swirl the butter around to coat the sides of the pan.

In a bowl whisk the eggs lightly and add the milk, sugar and salt. Whisk in the sifted flour. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until nicely puffed and browned on top. The pancake will sink as it cools and is very custardy in texture. Serve warm (I quite like it cold too) with strawberry jam (I think they call it jelly in the USA?) or if you're american/canadian like my husband, with maple syrup.


Addit: It's a good idea to let this pancake cool for a while to let it set. If you cut into it too quickly when it's hot it kind of separates.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Map of the States - quick sticks - top

Last year I made these blocks based on Elizabeth's (from Oh Fransson) "Map of the States" blocks, but used a quick stack and slash method instead (you can find Elizabeth's original tutorial here and my tutorial here).  Both methods have their advantages and limitations as described on this post.

I finally got around to adding sashing in Kona Cotton Snow, and I love how it frames the blocks. At first I was going to alternate the pink/orange and grey/green blocks, but then I thought I'd try having all of the pinky ones on one side and the green ones on the other. I liked it, but also liked the interplay between the different blocks, so I settled on this arrangement, and I'm really pleased with it.

This is a pretty big quilt for me (approx 57" x 83" - 145cm x 210cm), so I'm looking forward to seeing how it fits under my new sewing machine. I'm thinking about straight line quilting in the sashing, and free motion stitching on the blocks.

Now I just have to peice the back (not my favourite part) and then get down on the floor to baste it (not sure if I'll be able to get up off the floor once I'm down! - anyone want to come to a basting party??).

Addit: the blocks are 10" finished, sashing 3" finished and borders 4" finished.
Blocks are a combination of Hope Valley by Denyse Schmidt and coordinating solids.
As mentioned, sashing and borders are in Kona Cotton Snow.