Monday, December 24, 2012

Back to Basics

It's a beautiful Monday morning here in my part of the world and a glorious day to not be working. Today is the day before Christmas and its very relaxed in my household. All the Christmas preparations are done so now is the time to just 'be'. And to just 'be' is what I'm doing right now as I type this post my cat meowing at my feet for attention.

I browsed my quilting bookcase this morning in search of Jenny Beyer's 'Quiltmaking by Hand'. I've read through this book multiple times and its a text I continually go back to whenever I'm in a slow paced quilting mode. I do most of my piecing by hand so it's lovely to read the wisdom of a well known and highly respected quilter talking about the methodology I use most. And I always come away from the book with a positive feeling toward how I chose to piece my quilts.

I pulled out Jenny's book this morning for a couple of reasons. One, I'm hand quilting a section of my Psycho 70's apple core quilt and a stitching refresher is always welcome and two, I recently decided against investing in a machine quilting frame so I'm putting my brain back into its rightful place, I.e., back to basics.

It was a really difficult decision not to buy a machine quilting frame. Before recently I never really considered investing in one of these modern home sewer marvels. But a quilting friend who quilts for a living has decided to upgrade and therefore wants to sell her existing frame quickly. She's selling her old frame (and machine) at a very good price and it made my mouth water thinking I might buy it. However after I took a breath and let my head do the thinking instead of my heart, I knew it was not the right choice for me. I quilt strictly for creative self expression and enjoyment. Because its my hobby and not my livelihood I find it very hard to justify a 4 figure cost. My darling husband, being supportive in whatever decision I were to come to, had to listen to me waiver back and forth for days before I made the final decision and that was not to buy it.

So, in order to get my head, and heart, back into the right place for me, I'm re-reading Jenny Beyer's book and I'm so glad I am. Already I'm looking forward to this evening in front of the TV, quilt hoop at the ready, husband and dog on the couch and me in my favourite chair fighting for space with my cat, quilting away as a movie entertains us. Now that I think of it, it would be pretty difficult to drag a 10 foot machine quilting frame into the living room!

Merry Christmas everyone. I wish you all health and happiness this holiday season. And I hope we all have a wonderful new year ahead of us.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Little Hand Work

There's nothing I like better than setting up my stand alone quilting hoop in a sunny, comfortable spot in my house.  One of my favorite places is in my living room in late afternoon.  This time of the year the light is beautiful and perfect for some serious hand quilting.

What is in my hoop right now is what I'm calling my Psycho 70's Apple Core quilt.  It's a rather modern creation.  I hand pieced all the apple cores together then machine appliqued a substantial strip of them off center onto a pure white background.  The back is also plain white.  I then sandwiched it and machine quilted lots of wavy lines perpendicular to the strip of apple cores using variegated thread in multiple colors.  I'm now hand stitching in the ditch around the apple cores with deep red, heavy gauge embroidery thread so that on the back I'll get the outline of the individual apple cores.  I also want the hand stitching in this area to be big and noticeable hence the use of heavy gauge thread and the larger stitches.

 I want to talk a little about hand quilting.  I know the accepted belief in hand quilting is that you want your stitches as small and as close as possible - and I'm not necessarily disputing that.  I believe however hand stitching really is a personal choice.  I sometimes think that if I'm going to all the trouble and time of hand quilting a piece then I want those stitches to show.  That's not to say I'm going to make huge stitches (unless of course I want the effect I'm going for like above).  Having said this I'm certain none of my hand quilted quilts would win a prize at some national quilt show because my stitches aren't that small or that invisible.  But I'm happy with them.

Also, when it comes to hand quilting, I'm a stab stitcher.  Meaning I work my needle one stitch at a time 'stabbing' the needle straight down into all layers of the sandwich and with the hand underneath, stabbing the needle back up to complete the stitch.  I'm not a needle rocker and never have been.  It was once commented to me by a member of the 'rocker' camp that she couldn't believe I hand quilted one stitch at a time.  It made me laugh because isn't that how all stitches are made?  Of course I understood her meaning in that she believes I complete one stitch as a time before moving to the next.  I don't though.  Even with the stab method you can take multiple stabs (around three at a time for me...) before pulling the thread through.

My needle going into the fabric completely straight up and down

You can see a successful 'stab' must be executed with the needle straight, no lazy angles.

The needle coming up from the back - again straight up, no angles.

My multiple stitches.  I stab the needle about 3 times before pulling the thread through.

I'm almost finished with this quilt.  Hopefully I'll have it on the bed within the month as a few of the quilts I use on a regular basis needs some TLC.  One needs a new binding and another needs mending in places.  I NEVER keep any of my quilts stored away for special occasions.  I believe everyday is a special occasion which means of course that none of my quilts will go on in perpetuity.  But that's ok with me.  I'd rather use them and love them because for me that's why they were made.  I'd rather have the memories made under them then the museum piece for future generations.

Time for some more stitching.

Oh - and this is why I can never get much hand stitching done.  What is it with cats and quilts?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lets Talk Log Cabin

Just recently the Husband and I went on a camping trip. If any of you know me personally you'll know that camping is not my most favourite of activities. I'm more of a 5 star hotel kinda girl. Bugs, wilderness, lack of standard toilet facilities and a barrage of midnight animal noises really doesn't thrill me. But I believe compromise is an important part of a loving relationship so each year I put on my game face and off I trek into the woods to play happy camper for the love of my husband. It just so happened that this year, unlike previous camping excursions, involved days and days of constant rain. God, I must love this man....

During my trip I was thankful to be in close enough proximity to a 3G connection for my iPad that only wavered occasionally. And on day two of believing the Ark must be on its way to rescue us from certain death by drowning, I received a welcome email from the on-line media department of Fons and Porter asking if I would give a review of their latest ebook entitled:

This email of course made my day for numerous reasons. Number one, I got an email from Fons and Porter asking my opinion on something and two, I got a free ebook to read and critique which took my brain out of the wet and into a good place of reading what I love and getting to write about it. Sweet.

So, without further chatter, let me get down to the task at hand and talk about Build Your Best Log Cabin.

What the authors of this ebook strived to do, in my opinion, is take the very traditional log cabin block and present quilts made from them in a fresh and modern way without sacrificing the traditional aspects of what the log cabin has always been about - simplicity in block design and creativity in putting it all together. Not only did they show log cabin quilts made fresh with interesting block configurations and the use of bold modern fabrics, they also showed the log cabin in its more traditional form with drawn graphics presentations of long established layouts. And also being a quilt history nut, I really enjoyed the titbits of historical data given throughout the book regarding the blocks history. It's only a short book but I found it jam packed with information.

I particularly loved the 'woven' log cabin done in solids. I think this is modern log cabin at its best and is a pattern I'm definitely going to give a go myself. I was particularly pleased to see a quilt with pattern and instructions created by well known quilter and quilt TV presenter Ricky Timms included in the book. The instructions for his Bears in Bertie's Cabin quilt are easy to understand and execute and the info about heavy gage thread and trapunto techniques are very informational.

In summary, I really enjoyed the ebook. For such an abbreviated text it packs a lot of good information with inspiring photos to get your creative juices flowing. Damn, now that I'm all excited I'm going to have to start a log cabin quilt. As if I don't already have too many projects on the go.....

The good people at Fons and Porter are sharing this link so you can download your own free copy of Build Your Best Log Cabin.

I have a feeling I won't be the only one starting a new log cabin quilt very soon.


Friday, December 14, 2012

I'm Back!

That's right.  After a shocking hiatus of two months, I'm back in the saddle and ready to write in my blog again.  I won't go into details as to the reason for my absence.  But as I've written before, life always comes before blogging so lets just say that life has been keeping me busy.  Now that the everyday has calmed down to a low rumble I'm happy to be putting words to the digital page once more.  I'll try not to leave a two month gap again.

Even though I haven't written, quilting has gone on in my life -  just in a much diminished capacity. I've finished the first of four blocks of what will hopefully be an appliqués table covering. This is it below.

 I'm making all the blocks the same motif.  Now that I've completed needle turning the first block I'm in a quandary as to how I would like to quilt it.   I'm thinking that as the finished piece will be very symmetrical it would work well as a quilt-as-you-go project.   I'm wondering if I should hand quilt it or machine?   I think probably machine since its going to be a functional as well as ornamental piece, machine quilting will make it a bit more durable and long wearing.

I'm considering this piece as a bit of practise going into my Baltimore Album quilt.   I'm not putting a timeframe on when I want this mega masterpiece to be completed.   I'm just going to let it evolve as it will.  Sort of a metaphor for life really - just let it evolve as it will.....

And on that note I'll close this post.   I'll 'speak' with you later.  I'm glad to be back.