Thursday, 28 January 2010

A Gift Day

I was supposed to be taking one of the kids to a doctor's appointment but a last minute cancellation gave me an unexpected free day. In my experience, expected free days are never really free because we fill them up ahead of time. But an unexpected free day is a gift! I usually fit my quilting in between other things but today I had 4 uninterrupted hours. So I was able to load the quilt on the frame, complete the machine quilting and blog about it, all in the same day.
I like to practice the line designs on a roll of paper before I start the machine quilting.
I went with the white thread in the end. I was very tempted by the shimmery red. But I decided to go for a more subtle look, especially as I was trying out a new line design. I'm pleased with how it turned out. The So Fine! is such a trouble free thread to free-motion with. Now I just need to do the binding and I'll be all ready for the birthday party.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Bee Fruitful

This time last year, I was getting ready to go to America for a Superior Threads seminar. Around the same time I was honoured to have been asked by my friend, Angie, to be present at the birth of her child. The baby was due the third week of January and my flight wasn't until the first week of February. The timing should have been just fine. But as January drew to a close the baby still hadn't come.

Meanwhile, her big sister Theresa, who was not yet two, was learning how to count. In much the same way as all children she began well then skipped on to the end. Her version of counting went 1..2.....9 Very sweet. Anyway on the very last night before my trip, Angie went into labour. And I was able to be there. Theresa's little sister was born just after midnight and her birthday was the first of February 2009. That's right 01/02/09. Theresa had been telling us all along! BTW for you American gals - English people put the day first rather than the month when they write out the date. Does the story make more sense now?
So while I was in America I had this new baby on my mind. And when we had the chance to visit some fabric shops, I fell in love with these pre-cut moda squares by Mary Engelbreit. So I bought them and decided to use them for a baby quilt. This Recipe for Friendship collection features lots of cherries. So I added other fruity and buggy squares from my stash and decided to call it 'Bee Fruitful' I'm going to load it on the frame tomorrow so it will be finished in time for baby Anne's first birthday. I'm practicing a loopy cherry quilting pattern. I just need to decide on the thread!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Driving in the Snow

On Friday, I had to get my brother-in-law to the train station in Newark which is about 45 minutes away in normal weather. He needed to get to the London airports to catch a plane. His flights and trains had been cancelled due to the snow all week so even though the roads were bad we still went for it.

I love snow and I don't mind driving in it. In Baltimore, we had lots of snow most winters. And when I was learning to drive, my dad taught me how to drive in it. I remember going to an empty parking lot the size of a baseball pitch. There I could practice skidding quite safely and figure out how to pull out of it. He taught me to go easy on the starts and stops and to keep a steady even speed, not too slow or fast. As long as I kept everything easy and steady and avoided any sudden or jerky movements I would be fine. The most dangerous thing would be the other people on the road.

Just after I got home from the train station last Friday, I had a meeting with a quilter and her husband who were keen to try out the New English Quilting frame. As I was going through the motions with the JUKI on the New English Quilting frame, I was struck with how much free motion quilting on a table top frame is like driving in the snow! Start slow, get up to a working speed, not too slow, not too fast; keep the speed steady and flowing, avoid any jerky movements and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Twelfth Night

Happy Twelfth! Did you know that in Elizabethan times, the twelfth Day of Christmas was celebrated with the performance of plays? And Shakespeare's play called Twelfth Night was so named because it was first performed on the twelfth night of Christmas at the court of Queen Elizabeth the First.

My current favourite is the mid-90's BBC version with Ben Kingsley and Helena Bonham Carter. It's a beautifully filmed practically flawless adaptation and so funny! We're watching it tonight to mark the day.
And just to tie all this into machine quilting I'll end with a photo of an art quilt that my daughter Emily made for a high school textile project a few years ago.
It's an image of St Michael's Mount in Cornwall and the evocative setting of parts of the film version. Not bad for a kid! The photo on the side bar shows the colours better, but a close up of this one really gets the texture.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Donuts and Coffee

Some years ago, Superior Threads came out with 3 sets of L-style prewound bobins called Frostings for Piece O'Cake - The Piece O'Cake people are famous for their applique projects. A couple years later Superior Threads got the brilliant idea of putting the whole collection of 36 colors in one plastic ring and calling it a Frosted Donut. How wonderful to have the most popular MasterPiece threads right at your fingertips without having to purchase the entire spool! It was perfect for any applique project. Recently, someone suggested"Why not do the same thing with the Bottom Line prewounds" - so they made a similar collection and called it Holy Super Bob's. Again, I knew it would be ideal for applique.
I thought that these were fantastic products, but I never had occassion to properly appreciate them until my last project. As mainly a machinequilter, I mostly worked by machine. But for Mrs Boomers leafing quilt I needed to hand applique a leaf shape to 144 six inch squares! As I was organising the project, I realized that I was finally going to use those Donuts!

The Donuts were the pefect threads for my project. Between both collections I had the perfect colour thread to match each leaf. I got some zip lock bags and organized the leaves into similar colours, added a matching bobbin, cut the backing squares added a needle and some pins and a set of directions. This way I could give each helper a bag of materials so they would have everything they needed to complete the hand applique part of the project. Many of the gals came back for more and in about 12 days the 144 squares were all completed.

Lots of people raved about the thread. "It just disappeared into the fabric!" "It was so easy to work with!" I expected it to be good yet I was still surprised at just how easy it was and especially how good the end results were with such inexperienced people (like myself) doing the sewing! What a difference the right thread makes! Now MasterPiece is 100% extra long staple Egyptian cotton and one of the finest threads on the market. Yet after hand appliquing lots of leaves, I think that I prefer the lowly Bottom Line! The polyester was a smoother thread to sew with and my stitches were truly invisible.

I love prewounds! I've been using them in my JUKI and Janome sewing machines with great results for years. But now I'll be using them for my hand sewing projects too. So much for the donuts - now I'm off for the coffee.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy Trails

This post is a thank you to some bloggers who pointed me in the right direction.

I was stumped on the hand applique when I began my last project. It's been years and I wasn't sure how best to go about it. I did a bit of searching and found this wonderful Australian gal who was blogging about just what I needed to know. Great isn't it!

Following the trail is half the fun so I'll retrace my steps with links to the blogs. First I visited, Cactus Needle Quilts by my Superior Threads buddy, Nedra in Utah. From there I picked up Janet's blog in Australia called Quiltsalot. Janet is participating in a Jospeh's Coat Quiltalong hosted by Kelly on her Don't Look Now! blog also in Austrailia. And Kelly, bless her! had fantastic tutorials for a quick, easy and effective way to hand stitch those leaves to my squares.

Kellie's project is much more challenging, but I was able to adapt it to my needs. Instead of freezer paper I used a Stitch and Wash Fusible product called Floriani. This comes on a roll and, like freezer paper it's cut out and ironed to the applique fabric. But it can stay in as it will wash out later. The other time saver was using an ordinary (washable)glue stick to stick down the edges of the fabric to the back of the leaf. This meant no basting or needle turning so the project was simple enough for the those 'occasional sew-ers' who helped with the project.

Well, the hand applique was a big hit. Lot of people were surprised at how much they enjoyed it. So many thanks to Nedra, Janet and Kelly! I'll be following the breadcrumbs back to your blogs - I can't wait to learn more!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Bread and Jam

The turning of the year sets me musing on life's meaning and thinking about how quilting fits into my life. In these frugal times, I couldn't really call it 'the icing on the cake!' But I could say, in all earnestness, that for me quilting is the jam on the bread of my life.

Like most people, my life is busy. I run a large family and a small business and my quilting fits in around the edges of these things. So I'm grateful for the tools and materials that help me to make the most of my time and energy. Quilting gives scope to my imagination, compels me to create things beautiful and useful and connects me with others. It gives me the satisfaction that comes from working with my hands. Quilting nurtures my soul.

As I write this post, the fragrance of my husband's freshly baked bread is wafting through the house. Life is good - I'm glad for all of it, the bread and the jam.