Rewarded

I’m looking after a colleague’s animals for a few days while she’s away – a cat, and (unusually for a suburban household) two chickens.  I’ve discovered there are advantages to looking after chickens – while the cat just gave me tonnes of affection when I turned up this morning, the chickens gave me a gift:

I’ll have to offer to look after her menagerie more often :-)

Three more patterns (and a picnic)

“Square meander”

“Nesting boxes” – further proof that I’m not good at the structured, regular stuff. Of course, I could have done something sensible like draw in chalk guidelines first, but where’s the fun in that?

“Paisley”

And then work ground to a halt because I ran out of cotton. So I’ll have to walk over to Hands tomorrow and get some more (several reels this time – if I’ve used up an entire 500m reel in just 7 squares, the whole 25-square quilt is going to need a lot of thread!). I’ve got to walk over that way in the morning anyway, because I’m feeding Rosalee’s chickens while she’s away.


Went on a picnic yesterday with Harvestbird and her family, and some friends of theirs.  It was a perfect day for a picnic, warm and sunny but not overly so, and we spent a lovely few hours sitting under a tree eating and talking while the assorted children ran around the gardens.  My daisy-chain making (and repairing) skills were in much demand from the elder of the mini-Harvestbirds (although she was initially disappointed that it turned out to be a daisy chain and not a daisy train).  I’d spent the morning making focaccia bread, which went down very well with everyone (including Harvestbird’s Italian friend, so I must have done it right :-) ).  A most enjoyable day.

More experimentation

This is the second time I’ve written this post.  This morning I wrote a long (and, of course, incredibly witty and entertaining) version of it, but when I hit publish WordPress just laughed at me and ate it. And I didn’t have time to re-write it straight away, because I had to run off and catch a bus. So this will be a much briefer and nowhere as good version.  As you read it, just imagine you’re actually reading the much better original.  You would have enjoyed it…

Anyway, having read all of the projects in Free Motion Quilting for Beginners and wanting to try all the things, I decided I’d do just that – I’m going to work my way through each of the patterns in the book, and quilt a square in each (the actual projects in the book are for simple little objects to create using quilting, the idea being that you can practice on them rather than diving straight into a full sized quilt.  But you know me, why start with something simple when the deep end looks so much more fun?).  And anyway, this quilt is all about being experimental and trying new things, so what better than to turn it into a library of patterns (ok, a library of attempts at the patterns – based on experience so far, some will be more successful than others).

So, first up is a combination of “loop de loop” and “handwriting”.  Hanson suggests starting with handwriting because you’re already familiar with the movements involved. Yeah, except I’m terrible at writing in proper joined-up script (which of course you have to do when you’re “writing” with a sewing machine – you can’t exactly lift the pen off the paper between letters) – my natural writing style is a very not-joined-up printing. But I gave it a go, and it didn’t come out any worse than my writing on paper does :-)

I bet you can’t guess what word I chose to incorporate into my quilt 😉

The next pattern was “stippling”. Of course, I’ve already tried this one out on a couple of other projects, but I decided to include it anyway, for completeness (and because I definitely still need a lot of practice at it – my stipples keep getting confused and turning into loops).  It turned out to be a lot trickier on a big quilt, with all that fabric to move around, not just a little cushion cover.

Then “pebbles”. This pattern was fun, and had the bonus effect of forcing me to slow down, because you have to retrace your steps quite often. My quilting definitely improves when I slow down, but I’ve noticed a tendency that the more I’m having to concentrate, the harder my foot goes down on the pedal (I think because I’m tensing up), so I start speeding up just when I should be slowing down (this is why it’s a very good thing that I don’t drive!). It uses a HUGE amount of cotton, though – I think I went through an entire bobbin’s worth on this square alone.

But I love the 3D effect it produces.

Finally, “chain of pearls”. Similar to pebbles, but for me it was a total fail – I just couldn’t manage to keep the spacing and size consistent. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have sewn them in the same direction as the stripes of fabric – they were too distracting. Oh well, the overall effect looks ok from a distance… if you squint your eyes a bit… and hold your head on just the right angle…

Things I have learnt so far:

  • Quilting on this scale is very different to the little mats and cushions I’ve been doing so far. Moving all that fabric around is hard work! (And this isn’t even a big quilt – I can’t imagine how hard it would be to work on something big enough for a bed!)  I’m starting to understand why all the blogs recommend using grippy quilting gloves and a super-slidey mat thing between machine and fabric.
  • I am much better at random freehand designs than anything that requires structure and consistency (big surprise there – not).
  • I’m going to have to buy a lot more cotton before I get this quilt finished – quilting (especially the denser patterns) just eats it up.
  • Google knows everything, including exactly where to oil your 30-something year old sewing machine to stop it squeaking through overuse. I even found a maintenance diagram for exactly this model.
  • If you leave an unfinished quilt alone for more than 10 seconds, it becomes a cat magnet. Said cat gets very angry when you try and move her off her comfy new bed just because you’d like to keep the quilt at least slightly free of cat fur – just until it’s finished, anyway.

Experiments

A definite theme is developing with this quilt: find ways to use up all those random experimental blocks that I made to try things out but then didn’t actually know what to do with.  Oh, and break the rules a bit and don’t do things you’re supposed to do with proper quilts.  Which is why I’ve got my two paper-pieced butterflies on the back, when most people would say they should probably be on the front of something, not hidden away on the back.  But again, they’ve been sitting on my desk for months waiting for me to figure out what to do with them (in fact, the pink butterfly needed some serious cleaning before I could use it, because I discovered Parsnips had obviously decided it was a comfortable place to sleep at some stage, so it was covered in cat fur) – a few people suggested I turn them into cushions, but they wouldn’t fit anywhere in my house, and I couldn’t think of anyone they’d suit to give them to.  So I reckon being on the back of a quilt is a much better fate than being abandoned and unloved (except by the cat) on my desk.  And as this is intended as a quilt to be used, not hung prettily on the wall, the back will probably get seen just as much as the front.  And most importantly, I just thought they looked cool there :-)

So now I have a front and a back – must be time to bite the bullet and start quilting! I’ve carefully read all the instructions in the Molly Hanson book on how to properly prepare for free-motion quilting, and yesterday I walked over to Hands (yes, on the hottest and muggiest day of the summer so far – sensible decisions are not my strong point) and bought sewing machine oil so I can properly clean and oil Granny’s machine before I start, and I got nice new cotton so it won’t break or fray, so here we go…

Return of the string quilt

Remember this?

I’d started making a wee lap quilt back in August, but put it aside when I got busy with other projects, and the squares have been sitting in a pile on my desk ever since waiting for inspiration to strike.  With all of my Christmas projects out of the way, and wanting something to practice free-motion quilting on, inspiration struck, and I pulled the pieces out to sew them together.

But when I laid them out, I wasn’t totally happy with them.  Although I’d tried to be totally chaotic with the stripes, the overall effect was a bit boring.  It needed something more, to disrupt the pattern slightly.  And then I had a thought.

Remember this?

It’s my very first attempt at paper-piecing, produced in the class Tartankiwi taught nearly two years ago.  It has likewise been sitting waiting for inspiration to strike about what to do with it, but it’s quite small, so it never quite fit into anything I had in mind.

Can you see where this is going?

I decided to try something totally experimental and see if I could sew the cat heart into one of the blocks of the quilt, to break up the pattern and add a tiny point of interest.  At first I was thinking it should be in the centre, but it’s so small it just looked lost there, and it broke up the pattern too much.  So instead I put it up in the corner:

Yes, it’s a bit weird, but I kind of like it.  I think it adds just the right amount of extra chaos to an already chaotic quilt.  And as I’m actually making this quilt for me for a change, I’m the only one who has to like it, so I can do all these silly experimental things and have fun, and who cares if it turns out looking weird or not according to the rules of a “proper” quilt :-)

(The very sharp-eyed among you may notice that the square the cat heart is in doesn’t actually feature in the original layout of quilt squares.  That’s because I managed to completely mess up my measurements in my first attempt, and cut the square the wrong way, so I had to chuck that one out and start again, making a whole new quilt square to piece the heart into.)

Next step, making a backing for it.  I’ve got some thoughts there too…

A witchy pair

Now that Christmas is out the way, I can finally show you all the work-in-progress photos I took of the secret project I spent the last few days working on – a Christmas/welcome home/house re-warming present for Lytteltonwitch.

Planning:

Sewing:

Quilting:

And the finished product:

I’m pretty proud of my work :-)

I stumbled across the witch’s hat pattern last week sometime while looking for something completely different, and was immediately inspired to make a cushion out of it (I shrunk the pattern in half), especially as I knew Lytteltonwitch’s house is looking a bit bare at the moment as she slowly refurnishes (having shed all her belongings before she went overseas).  I wanted to make a companion (because one cushion would just look lonely), so after a bit more googling on the themes of witches, bats and spiders I found a bat I liked, and a plan was formed.

The bat pattern was a bit weird – it didn’t actually work as printed, so I ended up having to redraw some of the lines (and completely eliminate others, which didn’t seem to serve any useful purpose at all).  Which is actually quite cool that I’ve learnt enough about how paper piecing works that I can now actually recognise mistakes in patterns and know how to fix them!

Anyway, I was very pleased how they turned out, and Lytteltonwitch seemed pretty happy with her present.  Mission accomplished.

And with that success I’m now feeling super-inspired to try more quilting – especially as mum gave me a book on free-motion quilting for Christmas.  Watch this space for more creativity…

Christmas Giraffes

Spent this afternoon with Lytteltonwitch in the very Christmassy occupation of giraffe hunting. We weren’t the only ones, either – we ran into other people doing the same thing. Who says Christmas Day needs to be spent eating way too much food (ok, so we did that later… tacos* for dinner followed by way too much chocolate) and arguing with relatives? :-)  We found quite a few giraffes, too (though, being Christmas Day, the ones that are inside buildings we could only peer through the windows at, because everything was of course closed):

I very quickly decided that releasing a book on every giraffe wouldn’t be feasible, but I did release a few:

So a very successful day overall.  Hope that all of you are having (/had/are about to have) Christmases that are equally fun and giraffe-filled!

* What do you mean tacos aren’t Christmas food? They are in my universe!

Happy Christmas Eve

Went to the supermarket this morning (yeah, I know, bad move on Christmas Eve, but it wasn’t actually as crowded as I expected – I didn’t even have to queue for a checkout) to grab a few things for tomorrow, and apparently there’s a world-wide raspberry shortage.  Or, at least, a Christchurch-wide one.  The supermarket staff were just putting up a sign in the vegetable department apologising that they’d run out, and a woman who had half a dozen punnets in her trolley (she must have got the last of them) was getting some very dirty looks from other shoppers.  I was a bit disappointed to miss out (raspberries being one of my favourite things about this time of year), but I’m sure they’ll be back in stock next week, when everyone’s got over the frantic Christmas buying, and they’ll still taste just as good then.  And at least strawberries are plentiful and cheap – obviously the weather that’s been bad for raspberries has been ideal for strawberries.

I’m off into town in a while – I’m meeting up with Lytteltonwitch to go to the Christmas carols in Latimer Square.  I didn’t go last year, so I’m looking forward to it – they’re always fun, and a cool Christmas Eve tradition.  Nice to have LW back to have someone to go to these sorts of things with – not that I mind going places on my own, but it’s much more fun with a friend.

Sparkly photos

As promised, a few photos from of the Christmas lights.

Didn’t get as many good photos as I would have liked, but it was very crowded, so finding places I could put down my tripod without getting in anyone’s way, or without anyone bumping into my camera, was pretty difficult, plus I’m not familiar enough with night photography with my camera yet to get really good photos (especially when it’s too dark to see what buttons you’re pushing).  There were a lot more light displays than these, plus rooms full of decorations (the lights are set up on a series of sheds around a courtyard area, and most of them have displays inside as well), but I put my camera away in the end and just enjoyed the spectacle first-hand, rather than have the stress of juggling camera and tripod in a crowd.

Christmas lights

Posting after midnight again, but I’ve decided it doesn’t count as skipping a day as long as I haven’t been to bed yet.  Yeah, the logic is weak, but I’m allowed to make up the rules as I go along :-)

The reason I’m posting so late is because Lytteltonwitch and I went out to Shands Road, on the outskirts of Christchurch, to see a house that does a seriously over-the-top Christmas lights display.  And of course, this being the southern hemisphere, and this being the solstice, it doesn’t get dark enough to properly appreciate the lights until well after 9.  So it was a very late night.  Well worth going though – really impressive (in a totally tacky way) and loads of fun.  Though so many people!

I tried taking some photos – it was impossible to capture the full spectacle though, especially in the crowds.  I think I got a few decent ones though.  Too tired to sort them through now though, so maybe in the morning.