Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bloggers Quilt Festival -October 2014

I hesitated to enter this as my second quilt in the Bloggers Quilt Festival. I didn't enter it last time around because it felt a little bit like cheating because I didn't do the whole thing myself. Then I suddenly realised that lots of people don't quilt their own quilts , they send them out to be done professionally and that my Mrs. DeWitt Quilt is just a variation on that theme. Mrs. DeWitt did all this beautiful and time consuming hand piecing and the universe sent it to me to be finished. So if it wasn't for both myself and Fontella doing our bits this quilt would never have come to be a finished thing and I like the idea of having made a collaborative quilt with her , even if it was decades after she finished the top. 

All of this started because once upon a time I decided it would be a good idea to rescue a vintage or antique quilt top that needed some love to bring it back to it's former glory. After many months of searching I found an unfinished vintage Martha Washington Flower Garden quilt top that I fell in love with and had it shipped 10,000 miles across the world, holding my breath almost the whole time lest it not be as lovely as the picture I bought it from had showed. 

This quilt was started in the 1930's or 1940's by a lady named Fontella Holmes DeWitt in Iowa. Mrs. DeWitt was born in 1905 in Winterset, Iowa and passed away on Christmas Day 1985. I'm assuming that this quilt lurked around in an attic somewhere for the next 30 odd years while someone thought about finishing it. It was in pristine condition so it had been stored very carefully for all those years. Her hand work on this quilt is absolutely exquisite and she was obviously very skilled at paper piecing. I wondered why she didn't finish this and the only thing I could come up with was that she got totally fed up with hand sewing hexagons. By my reckoning there are about 8000 of them in this quilt. 

The plan was to finish the white borders on the edges ( never mind that at that point I had no idea how to paper piece hexies) and then turn this into a useable work of art. This was a huge quilt at almost 80 by 90 inches and I had visions of me hand sewing minute little one inch hexagons like some pioneer woman and actually being serene and happy about it. 

It lobbed at Maison Pyjamas via the grace of USPS and Australia Post. It was gorgeous. It was perfectly square. The hand sewing of all those teeny tiny hexies was perfect. Angels sang and trumpets heralded it's arrival. 

And then I hung it in a cupboard and there it stayed for 4 or 5 years while I contemplated trying to find cream fabric to match, and the agony of hand sewing 400-500 teeny tiny hexies to finish it off. Occasionally I'd take it out and stroke it lovingly and reassure that poor unfinished top that one day it would be a finished functioning quilt and that we'd be together forever. 

Sometimes inspiration hits you like a bolt of lightning. While I was off work on vacation earlier this year, I pulled that quilt top out for it's annual foray into actual light and out of nowhere I decided the time was right to finish it. The sticking point was whether I was going to hand piece more hexagons or come up with another plan. I consulted with QuiltyGal at lunch that very day and decided to go for it. 

I laid it out and basted it with about 500 pins. I used a wool batting with a higher loft than I usually use and I really enjoyed working with it. It was almost as if the hand of Mrs. DeWitt was helping me along wanting me to finish her wonderful unfinished work of art. And as I worked and got to see all the fabrics in detail I weaved wonderful stories in my head about where they had all come from and what they had been used for before. That fabric there had come from a Summer Dress, and that one from a weekday working skirt. I could see her Sunday best outfit and fabrics from her babies  clothes all dancing through my head and as if I could see the life that Mrs. DeWitt had lived through her fabrics. 

I started quilting using a serpentine stitch because I didn't want to detract from any of Fontella's beautiful work.  Sometimes simple is best. It took 5 spools of bobbin thread to get through this baby, because I quilted it very very closely together with a serpentine stitch. I have to say there were points where this was not fun to get it all through my machine. And the whole time I was terrified that I was going to do something  to mess it up! 

Then oh horror of horrors I squared the quilt up and cut all those pretty unfinished points off to bring this quilt down to 70 x 80 inches square. If I hadn't sacrificed those points it would have sat in the cupboard for another 30 years unfinished. Sometimes you have to make the tough calls.  

I picked a plain fabric that was as close as I could get to the original cream hexagons for the binding, in keeping with the original colour scheme of the quilt. 

And finally I put the last stitch in and she was finished, approximately 70 years after she was started. I'd venture a guess that this was one of the worlds oldest WIP's. And I was seriously thrilled. 

More gratuitous fabric shots. Aren't they pretty?

Quilt front

And the back ...I love how this looks!

I'm so happy with this finish. I'm prouder of this than anything else I've ever made. I like to think that somewhere Mrs. De Witt knows that her beautiful work is finally being used the way she hoped it would be all those years ago. Yes- I use this quilt a lot. And it was a no brainer to name this quilt in her honour. 

I'm entering this quilt in the scrappy category because it has several hundred different fabrics in it and I don't think it gets much scrappier than that. Thanks for dropping by and having a look at my post. And if you know the Holmes - DeWitt family please tell them their Mom's quilt is in good hands, a lot further away from Iowa than they ever imagined. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bloggers Quilt Festival - October 2014

For anyone who reads my blog regularly (thank you - you're already ten shades of awesome) you've already seen this quilt and heard the story of it's existence . You were right there beside me through every blog post where I whinged , whined, griped, bitched and moaned about pretty much every stitch that went into this quilt. You got excited along with me when I finally cracked FM quilting with this quilt and was so darn proud of myself , because lets face it - I didn't think it was ever going to happen.  So I wont be offended if you back out slowly without making eye contact with me , and go and do something more exciting - like folding your socks. By all means stay - but you know the rule, you have to drink a cocktail while you're reading this post, which could be very interesting for some of you since while it's night time here as I type - its breakfast time on the other side of the world. 

For anyone who happens to visiting from the Bloggers Quilt Festival - Don't you go anywhere ...I have fresh blood to show off this quilt to and I'm so glad you dropped by to have a look. I won't impose the cocktail rule on you. Pull up a chair - help yourself to tea or coffee and sit for a bit. I'm a chick that loves to spin a tale or two and no quilt I ever make comes without a back story.  

Compared to lots of other people I haven't been making quilts all that long - I think I properly started about 6 years ago . I'm still learning all the time and trying new things sometimes with disastrous results. In August 2013 I decided to make an orange peel quilt and a couple of the girls in my sewing group showed me how to freezer paper applique (mainly because the way I was trying to do it was totally irritating them )and this quilt was officially started. 

The plan was to use scraps and leftovers from other projects. This quilt went a lot of places while it was being made including work, family functions, in the car (obviously when I wasn't driving ) to Brisbane when I went and visited my friend Little Miss Sunshine (whose scrap bin I coincidentally raided while I was visiting )  and also all the way to Vietnam.  I actually became a bit of a scrap scab while making this , constantly pestering people for their scraps so I could incorporate different fabrics from some of my favourite people. 

Sometimes I would get a bit tired of it and ignore it for a few weeks, but mostly I worked on it fairly consistently. There are 144 peels in this quilt, and sometimes it felt like this was the groundhog day of all quilts and that I was doing the same thing over and over and over. I'm pretty sure I heard angels singing when I put the final stitch in the final block.

But eventually, after  months of hand sewing this project was ready to be made into a quilt top. Isn't she pretty? Can you tell I like colour? 

So - once at the flimsy-is-basted-and-ready-to-be-quilted stage, I was faced with the dilemma of exactly how to quilt it. Straight lines just weren't going to cut it and that's pretty much all I knew how to do. Free Motion quilting and I were not friends owing to a few bad practice runs in the past that had severely crushed my confidence. How to do this quilt justice? Well - you just put on your big gal panties and decide to kick some FM butt . Not for me a practice sandwich or a mini quilt to start the process. Nup - that's not the way I roll- I decided to jump right in and start meandering like an old pro all over that quilt. Sometimes not thinking about stuffing up is the best way to go. 

I love vintage chenille and have approximately half the world's available supply stashed at home. I decided it was time to cut into some of the vintagey goodness and put it to use so I backed this quilt in soft pink chenille.  

Add some spotty binding and you can't go wrong. Spots and stripes are my very favourite types of bindings. 

I meandered ( and sometimes stippled if truth be told ) everywhere except the peels , which really made them stand out. And when It was done I stood back and couldn't believe that I had actually finished something so pretty! (and that I had broken the back of free motion quilting - GO ME!) 

Every year I end up with a favourite quilt and for 2014 this is my very favourite one. Its kept me warm while I blob round on the sofa at night in my living room all winter and gets dragged to bed with me each night. Thank you for stopping by and having a look at it. And a big thank you to Amy who hosts this fabulous shindig for us twice a year so we can be inspired and get our fill of eye candy!

Im going to enter this into the applique category for the festival ...and cant wait to see what all you other clever people have chosen as your quilt to showcase. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bullshit Hat-trick

For those of you not familiar with cricket lingo, a hat-trick is a positive achievement that occurs three times within a game or short period of time. If a bowler gets three consecutive wickets in a row or a batter hits three sixes in a row that would be called a hat-trick and much celebrating , both of the team and the crowd, would ensue. Hat-tricks are rare and are the stuff sporting legends are made of. 

For those of you not familiar with Shay lingo, a bullshit hat-trick is where three "that's bullshit "moments occur within a short time frame. It's most applicable to activities that occur within my sewing room. So for example if my needle breaks three times during a sewing session or I sew the same seam the wrong way three times and have to unpick it - that would be bullshit hat-trick.  

Bullhsit  hat-tricks are rare (how many times can you make three mistakes in a row without learning from the experience?) and are usually accompanied by swearing, loud exclamations of "that's bullshit", and resultant head scratching while trying to figure out WTF went wrong.  

I had my own little bullshit hat-trick this week. Let me refresh your memories about the first in my series of bullshit hat-tricks. This offender , finished and washed at least twice, then decided for no good reason  to shed it's guts all over the place. I dont know why , I don't know how, and after chucking it in the bin (because it was useless and unfixable unless I wanted to spend hours unpicking all the quilting - which I didn't ) I didn't care. I put it down to Mr. P washing it in hot water, or  a bad batch of batting , or  a freak of nature and simply moved on. 

Example 2- which I fully admit was my own dumb arse fault. The quilt that decided to shrink a full 8 inches on two sides just over a week ago when I chucked it in the dryer. I think the general opinion was that you shouldn't use wool batting if you're going to chuck a quilt  in a dryer , although there was some difference of opinion about whether that was the cause. 

I am seriously contemplating turning it into puff quilt pot holders because I cant stand to throw another creation out, but it obviously cant be used as is and certainly can't be given away as planned as donation quilt. 

The hat trick of screw ups. Numero Tre. I made this quilt 4 weeks ago as a gift for a girl at work who is having a baby. These are quality fabrics, and I used a new needle, brand new wool 29-bucks-a-metre allegedly pure wool batting and Aurifil thread to piece and quilt it. So why the fudge ( I want to use a stronger word here but some of you might be reading with an 8 year old hanging over your shoulder) is it shedding through the fabric? Not the quilting lines....THROUGH the fabric. This also occurred after the second wash!

This has only happened to me since I started using wool batting. That's the only thing I can put it down to. I'm furious. Now I'm  trying to think of what other quilts I might have used it in, and whether this is going to be issue when they are washed a couple of times too. And today I'll be heading down to the shop where I bought the batting for a look at what make this batting is so I don't ever buy it again! 

And there endeth my sorry tale of the bullshit hat -trick. Some of my weekend will be spent making a replacement baby quilt, and I 'll be going back to using 100% cotton batting. 

PS. Seriously contemplating taking up scrap booking at this point....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Titanic of Quilting and Other Tales from My Week

Super E came for a sleepover on Friday so parts of my weekend have been focussed on 5 year old fun. Despite not having played the Wii at our house before he could reel off every game we have in our arsenal. He also told me that he can only play games with a "G" on the cover and promptly hounded me to play Mario Karts with him. When he got tired of kicking my sorry butt ( Video games are so not my forte and I spent the majority of my time trying to extricate myself from walls while being hit by lightning bolts and falling into burning lava) he chilled out with Grandpa who is a video game champion. I assert that little boys never really grow up to be men as evidenced by the concentration on my husbands face in this picture. I also had to mutter "tone it down " to Mr. P fairly frequently when he was going all out and trying to come first in every race - sometimes you have sacrifice your own personal Mario Kart victory to enhance a kids self esteem ...sheesh. 

We answered the question of what happens when you hand a 5 year old the garden hose to water your agapanthus? A water fight ensued in the front garden to the utter astonishment of the neighbourhood (nobody in the Pyjamas clan is quiet when we're having fun) meaning that Super E and I both ended up having to change clothes and I blow dried my hair for the second time in a morning. What the hay - the water fight was the most fun I've had in a long time. 

A quick trip to the fabric store to stock up on some fabrics for Miss Elizabeth occurred on Saturday with Super E tagging along and doing a pretty darn job of helping me pick out matching fabrics. He has quite the eye for colour matching as most of these were his choices. 

I washed my postage stamp quilt this weekend in preparation for delivering all three of my donation quilts to the Mary Potter Foundation next week. Abject disaster struck when I bunged it in the dryer after washing totally forgetting that I had inserted 100% wool batting into this quilt. It came out 8 inches smaller on two sides and looking extremely antiquey...I'm renaming this Titanic because she struck disaster on her maiden washing. I furiously googled until my fingers were little nubs to see if there was a solution but apparently no cigar since I've chucked it in the dryer and I did wash it again ( as if somehow that would swell it back to the right size? ) and stretched the crud out of it like I was some kind of medieval torturer but this one is destined for the bin or as a very ugly dog blanket. 

My nephew's wedding is fast approaching and this weekend was the traditional boys night prior to the wedding. My nephew elected to have it up river , and Mr. P went along. I received one text telling me they had arrived safely along with this accompanying picture. I don't want to know what else happened because I suspect it got fairly messy. I did facebook my other nephew this morning asking if my husband was alive and got the message back "Yes -unfortunately" so I suspect Mr. P may have been a ringleader of sorts in the hijinx department. 

This would be my nephew- in a dress and a girly hat - and this was well before any drinking started....
I had planned to sew and study today.  This stack of papers needed to be looked at and bits and pieces committed in some form or other to memory for a presentation I'm giving this week. 

Looking at that stack of papers gave me a headache and I decided to go clothes shopping because I have to have something pretty to wear to the wedding right? Clothes shopping revealed that I have been eating too many Krispy Kremes because not much I tried on made me look stunning but I settled on this little number with new dark blue nail polish to match.

I'm at the sewing binding onto the baby quilt stage so I'm hoping to get that finished this week. mental note to self : Don't put this one in the dryer...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cant Complain

The last couple of weeks has been full of activity, social and otherwise. Three family birthdays in under 10 days has meant a lot of running round and family time. Happy Birthday to PattyPie, Sister of Pyjamas and G. May this next year bring you all you hope and wish for. 

While I may have been absent from posting , I've been busy doing stuff ,patting myself on the back and feeling very virtuous about my crafty achievements.  I love that feeling you get when you’re motivated, and it seems like the ability to create might never end. We all know it does but I'm happy to take the feeling for as long as it deigns to stick around. 

First up, my September sampler blocks for Amanda's chocolate marshmallow sampler have been finished. I'm just using fabrics that appeal to me as these blocks are rolling out - so I'm hoping it'll all come together at the end. Looking at these fabrics, I suspect I might end up with something very different to anything I've ever made before. 

Last weekend the family got together to celebrate my Mum's birthday with a BBQ (and plenty of resultant silliness) I took my hand sewing planning to make a small hexie project which has now morphed into my Miss Elizabeth quilt. Slow but steady progress has been made this past week and I've sewn enough hexies to make one and a bit rows of of the inner guts of the quilt.

 I had a sewing day with PattyPie on Friday - No 2 nephew asked me to make a baby quilt for one of his friends so I got a start on that and continued with the quilting on Saturday- it's now awaiting some decorative stitching on the bunting flags and then I can whack the binding on and call it done. 

Marrakesh is a finished quilt top....which needs a decent press before I start basting it - This thing is huge and its really hard to get a picture of the whole quilt. Needless to say I love it. Those fabrics and layout make my heart sing. 

And lastly I'm going to leave you with a project my Mother In Law has been working on - her first ever hand sewing project. It's at the basting to the backing stage and I think she's done an amazing job! 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

FAL Q3 In Review and Whats up Next.

I'm time poor at the moment so I'm rolling my review for Quarter 3 and goals for Quarter 4 into one post because I'm nothing if not practical.(and considerate - this means you only have to read one post and I've even chucked in a bit of a fairy tale at the end which addresses the mythical finishes I'm hoping to achieve by the end of the next quarter) 

Frankly, I'm kind of horrified that it's October already. Before any of us know it we'll be butt deep in the C word that I can't bring myself to say just yet. (a hint just in case you think I was using thinly veiled profanity: present shopping , and the imminent arrival of fat guy in a red suit) Anyone who actually uses the C word out loud before November 1st should be publicly flogged in the town square as a deterrent to others who may be trying to get into the C*******s spirit way too early.

My performance on the "getting my goals completed" this quarter was somewhat dismal. It's not that I didn't sew - I did - a lot. Just not on very much that I had actually originally planned to finish. I was seriously affected by "Oh Shiny! " syndrome and kept allowing myself to be distracted by just about anything else that popped into my mind.

Finishes first ( don't blink or you'll miss it )

My Seville Quilt (featured on the Aurifil Facebook Page and pinned on Pinterest - too bloody right I'm being a big head about that) a vision of loveliness and my first ever meandering attempt. I've spent every night since I finished this snuggled up under it. Definitely in the running for my favourite quilt of 2014.

Re-do Cushion Cover- finished at practically the 11th hour but finished none the less!

Partial wins but no cigar 
Moroccan Tile Quilt- all the blocks are kind of ,sort of together but I ran into a wee snag with sewing the rows together I'm taking my time and not rushing it. Like fine wine, this quilt will get better with age. I really like it so I want to do it properly so I can look at it in later years and still marvel that " I did that"

Abject Fails
Holiday Happy quilt - enough said. Didn't even take it out of the box!

Other stuff I got distracted by that unfortunately wasn't on the list.
Joseph's Quilt of Many Colours , Picnic Parade Donation Quilt, Irish Chain Donation Quilt, Postage Stamp Donation Quilt and Lee-anne's Baby quilt. 
Fairy Tales for Q4:

Finish Along 2014

Moroccan tile quilt- I will vanquish curves and sew them in the right places to the rectangle blocks ! (not a full inch below where they are supposed to line up) 

Holiday Happy-I swear I'm going to finish it even if I get nothing else done. I hate working with black fabric and from memory that's where I last touched this poor neglected quilt two years ago....(or more - its been so long I can't recall) 

And my new project for this quarter - The Charming Stars quilt. I've had this on my list to do for about three years  and its time it was off the list and translated into reality. Fabrics picked and ready to go! 

Thats it for me...Three at this time of year is well and truly enough! If you want to see all the other very clever people and their goals for the last quarter of 2014 you can have a squizz here.