Friday, 27 March 2009

First try!

This was so fun once I got going. But I was scared before I started. As a warm up and to see how various threads performed on the fabric, I put each thread through a variety of line designs. This was a useful activity. It helped me over the quilter's block hump and it was good at the end to see the difference in the threads. This photo shows 3 different colours of King Tut in the foreground with three colours of Bottom Line in the middle. Click on the photo to get a better view. The photo below shows a view of the King Tut threads on the cones; Sunstone #982, Shekels #985 and Nile Delta #934 underneath. As you can see the block of colour that you see on the cones plays out quite differently as a line of thread on the fabric. For example, Sunstone on the cone looks a pale buttery yellow but against the dark fabric it read more like white.

I really was nervous about doing the flowers. But I found drawing with the thread so much easier than the pencil. I began with a simple outline, working from the inside out; first the stamens, then the round frilly bit and finally the outside petals. I echoed the lines and filled them in and echoed again. Thread is so forgiving! Any mistakes were simply covered over with more thread. I ended up using King Tut, MasterPiece and Rainbows the most. I spent a couple happy hours doing this. When I finished I was really "chuffed!" (that's English for well pleased!) There is something liberating about this sort of free motion embroidery. I enjoyed it so much - I'll be doing more in the future.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Thread Painting

I had so much fun today! I started in the morning between shifts. My big kids are out of the door by 7:45 and my little guys don't need to get up til 8:05. That 's my morning breather, when I check my emails or get a second cup of tea.

Today I started doing some line drawings of my daffodils. I'm not a proper artist. I've no training but flowers aren't all that difficult, are they? And when things go wrong there's always the eraser! I began with a view from the front. Six shield shaped overlapping petals, with a circular frilly bit and six stamens in the centre.

So far so good. Now I tried some alternate views. I found these more challenging to get the perspective right. 

I enjoyed doing the still life drawing. I often use pencil and paper to draw line designs as a warm up activity before I start free motion quilting on the frame. But this morning as I drew the daffodils, it was very satisfying to get a design directly from nature.

Then after some displacement activities, like really cleaning the kitchen sink, I loaded fabric and fleece on the frame and started free motion quilting various line designs with the different threads I'd chosen for the project. I wanted to see how the various threads showed up against the fabric. All these threads look gorgeous sparkling in the sunlight, but some will show up much better than others against the fabric. I've got some great photos but as this post is getting long, I'll follow on with the rest tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


What's in a name? When my daughter Rosie was very little she called these flowers "das-a gulls." It's become one of those family words that re-emerge each spring.

I've chosen a deep purple batik for the thread play - I think it will set off the yellows and oranges beautifully. Today I wanted to have a look at the threads against the fabric. In this photo you can see all the threads. Initially on the right of the photo, they're just draped across the fabric. In real life this is a great way to get a feel for the way the threads will act against the fabric. Context is everything! Threads look very different against different fabrics. So I like to audition threads before I choose what I'll be using.

Beginning at the left and working across...first I've got 3 bold and beautiful King Tut threads in variegated colours. Then there's 6 MasterPiece thread colours, a finer version of extra-long staple Egyptian grown cotton but in plain silk like colours. Next there's 2 versions of Rainbows, a shimmering variegated tri-lobal poly. After that there's 3 LAVA threads similar to Rainbows but stronger and more matt. There's an orange So Fine the most trouble free thread ever. Lastly there's 3 colours of Bottom Line an ideal bobbin thread but it can be used on top for detail quilting. Click on the images for a better look at the threads.

Beginning at the left top and working my way down, I used these same threads in the same order using just a straight stitch off the frame with my Janome 6600. Tomorrow I'll do a bit of sketching with pen and paper. Then I'll put the fabric on the frame and have a go machine quilting with my JUKI on the New English Quilting frame. The free-motion quilting will really bring out the differences in the threads.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


Happy Spring! For Mother's Day I asked for lotsa daffodils and my wish was granted. I have lots and lots of daffodils. I love how they smell and the yellow makes me smile. They've inspired me to start a new project. I want to do some thread painting. And I'm using my daffodils as a subject. So I followed the occasional burst of sunshine around my house and took lots of photos. Today I'll share the photos of the flowers and the threads. Click on the photos for a great close up of the threads, the flowers look pretty neat too. Tomorrow I'll start the project.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Shamrocks and Scallops

Here's me playing around with Rainbows this morning drawing some shamrocks. Unfortunately it was a dull day, no sunshine to bring out the sparkle. I'll try again tomorrow.

And here is a photo of my friend Judith's first quilting project. She pieced some monkey wrench blocks in blue and white to make a table runner. Then she went on to free-motion machine quilt it on the frame. Not bad for her first 10 ten days quilting! She used So Fine on top and a pre-wound Bottom Line in the bobbin with a Topstitch 100/16 needle. She used a JUKI on a New English Quilting frame.

The photo above shows the whole table runner and below is a quilting detail. Judith used scalloping to outline the central figures in the block . Larger scallops almost like garlands went round the outside border. Judith even had a go at stippling in the pale white areas. A fantastic first effort! I can't wait to see what she comes up with in a few months time.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Yes, I know it's come and gone. But I've been busy helping a new quilter quilt her first table runner. She's making a fantastic job of it too! So I'm wishing everyone a belated Happy St. Patrick's Day and in honour of the Irish, let's talk about Rainbows. One of the nice things about living here in England is the rainbows. Our weather is mostly showers and sunshine - a favourable combination for rainbows. I haven't made it across to Ireland yet but I'm sure the weather is much the same.
Rainbows is also the name of a range of thread that I use for machine quilting, created by the people at Superior Threads. In this post I'll discuss what makes this particular thread so special.
Rainbows is a premium quality, light reflecting, trilobal polyester in vivid variegated colours. If you want a gorgeous silky thread that reflects the light, this is the thread for you. Rainbows precise 1 inch colour change means you'll never get that stripy look that some variegated threads produce. I use a Schmetz Topstitch 100/16 needle for free-motion machine quilting with Rainbows.
Rainbows is a trilobal polyester; a high-sheen continuous fiber thread. Rainbows is lint free and colour-fast. But my favourite thing about Rainbows is how it reflects light - it shimmers like silk! This sparkle is created by the triangular shaped fibers that make up the multiple filaments. Rainbows are variegated in either tone on tone of the same colour or a multi coloured combination. The thread in this picture is one of the new Rainbow colours # 809 Kailua. This is a tone on tone with lots of shades of green -ideal for shamrocks. Click on the image to get a good look at all the colours. I'll post the shamrocks tomorrow.

Variations on a Theme

Here's another variation of the Fibonacci theme - a curtain. I love the stained glass window look that sunlight through patchwork creates. I've lined it and added a fun sequin bangly bit at the bottom. Now I'm all set to start on the quilt.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Bag Job

Here's a present I've just made for my Mom. In England next Sunday is Mother's Day and last Sunday it was my mom's birthday so I wanted to do something special to celebrate.
This simple bag was made from a scrap of pieced and quilted fabric. You may recognise the Fibonacci Sequence in the strip piecing. It was then quilted on the New English Quilting frame with a variety of Superior Threads using a Ripple Stipple free-motion quilting pattern. Click on any of the images and you'll get a good close up view of the ripple stipple pattern.
I didn't use any batting or wadding, just the pieced top and a backing fabric. I was curious to see how this would work and I'd intended to use it for a table runner. But when I found it last week I thought it would be just perfect for the bag.

The bag was made without a pattern. I got the idea from googling 'homemade bags' on the web. But once I got the main idea of how to put the thing together, I just made the bag in a size that seemed right to me. The lining was slightly smaller so it would fit nicely inside. It only took a couple of hours one quiet afternoon this week. I think my mom will love it.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Fibonacci ~ Fab Fabrics

We all have colours that make us go weak in the knees. These are mine. I needed a couple of tries to get the colour right - it just wasn't sunny enough here yesterday and my first photos came out all muddy. But this shot captures the colours. Here are all the strips cut in widths according to the Fibonacci Sequence with the added seam allowance making them 1 1/2, 2 1/2, 3 1/2 and 5 1/2. They're hung across the back of a chair and catching the rare burst of sunlight!
These pieces are for a sister quilt. The quilt on the frame below was created last summer for Emily. Now Rosie is sharing the room and needs a matching quilt. So these fabrics are for her. Emily's colour ways ran from turquoise to blue to purple. Rosie likes pink so her quilt will run from blue to purple to pink.

Here's Emily's quilt on the frame. I've backed it in fleece. The quilting pattern is a personal favourite that I call 'the Ripple Stipple'. This free-motion line design is a very directional pattern. I think that this makes it much easier than an ordinary stipple where you are moving in all directions. With this pattern you are mainly moving in one direction; right or left, with a few curves that bend back on yourself and then carry on in the same direction. I think it looks like sunlight on water.

Here's a detail of the quilting. I've used lots of different threads for the quilting, metallics for sparkle, variegated light reflecting Rainbows in watery colours and the bolder matt lines that King Tut makes. I've used some LAVA and So Fine as well.

Here's a selection of the threads, on the left are some gorgeous 2,000 yd cones of King Tut and a couple of Superior Metallics are on the right. Click on the image and you can see them better. I use Bottom Line pre-wounds in the bobbin and a Topstitch 16/100 needle. I think the threads are just as fab as the fabrics!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

math and bunnies

In 1202 the medieval mathematician and businessman Fibonacci whose real name was Leonardo Pisano, posed the following problem:

Suppose a newly-born pair of rabbits, one male, one female, are put in a field. Rabbits are able to mate at the age of one month so that at the end of its second month a female can produce another pair of rabbits. Suppose that our rabbits never die and that the female always produces one new pair (one male, one female) every month from the second month on. The puzzle that Fibonacci posed was... How many pairs will there be in one year?

It is easy to see that 1 pair will be produced the first month, and 1 pair also in the second month (since the new pair produced in the first month is not yet mature), and in the third month 2 pairs will be produced, one by the original pair and one by the pair which was produced in the first month. In the fourth month 3 pairs will be produced, and in the fifth month 5 pairs. After this things expand rapidly, and we get the following sequence of numbers:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, ...

As you can see, the next number is the sum of the previous number added to the current number. So... one add zero is one, one add one is two, three add two is five and so on.

It's not just bunnies, the Fibonacci sequence shows up in flower petals, pine cones, sea shells and sunflower seed heads. Art builds on nature. What is beautiful and functional in the natural world can guide and inspire the artist and quilter! I found that the Fibonacci Sequence works great as a model for a strip piecing project. My quilts are of a modest size so I limited myself to the first 5 numbers in the sequence, and cut strips of batik fabric in widths of 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 inches. Actually, I added a 1/2 inch seam allowance so the pieced strips would be 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 inches in width.

I'm not really a numbers person, but I do love pattern. And I found this sequence to be a really satisfying pattern to work with. There is a lovely balance between form and freedom here. I'll spend the next few posts showing some projects based on the Fibonacci Sequence.
Susan Happersett's Fibonacci Flowers

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Last Look

True confessions time - I didn't finish the table runner in time for the party. But I did finish it this week. Four of our six kids have birthdays during this 2 week stretch so posts might be a bit scant, but I thought you'd like to see the finished creation. I used parts of a bandanna for the ends. I like the way they hang down the sides.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cowboy Table Runner Project

Here's the cowboy table runner on the frame. I was going for a lasso look with lots of loops in the background. Besides the obvious advantage of being fun and easy, this type of background quilting makes the motif images pop up. I love doing this on kids quilts! This little project has a variegated LAVA on top #214 Sandy Beach with a red Bottom Line pre-wound in the bobbin. I made the Table Runner reversible because ... Cowboy parties only happen every now and then.
We all had a great time at the party. I've had fun today putting together a couple of slide shows. Click the top right photo for a slide show with music and special effects. Click the frame photo on the bottom right for a more basic show. And thanks for emailing some great party ideas!