Sunday 30 December 2012

2012: A Review

All in all, I've had a pretty good year. I finished a few big(ish) quilts (and started a lot more ;o)), made quite a few mini quilts and a couple of cushions and bags.

I have to say my favorite part of my blogging life this year has been all the people I've connected with and the friendships I've made around the world. When I started my blog I had no idea what a wonderful and supportive online community there is in the crafty world - so to all of you who follow me and leave lovely comments, a huge thank you. You've made my year so much better in so many ways :o)

Highlights for me were participating in a few fabulous swaps (nothing better than receiving squishy packages of handmade goodness), having a couple of tutorials published in Fat Quarterly e-mag, and coming in second place in the Groove QAL. I didn't finish a huge number of big quilts, but I have learnt quite a few new techniques, and have a whole bunch of works in progress that I'd love to finish sometime in 2013. The plan is to join the FAL - being hosted by the uber talented Leanne of She Can Quilt. I'm hoping it will be the kick up the butt I need to get some of my long term WiPs finally done (retro flowers and my stained quilt in particular!)

At the end of last year I wrote a list of things I hoped to achieve in 2012, so I thought I'd review what I did and didn't accomplish.

Participate in some QALs - I've already signed up for two QALs, and will probably do more. 

Yep, I did a lot more. I didn't actually get any finished except my Groove quilt (possibly my favorite finish of the year).

Not only that, but I ended up co-hosting a QAL with Jess (which is finishing up in a couple of weeks!). I had no idea what I was getting myself into - it was a LOT of work but I learnt a massive amount doing it. A huge, huge thanks to Jess for joining me in doing it - she did a lot of the designing work and I'm not sure it would have happened without her encouragement.

Participate in a bee

Heh, make that three bees, with another one starting in January!

Finish writing up some of my designs into tutorial/patterns to put on my blog (I have one nearly finished).

I ended up writing up a few tutorials for quilts in 2012 - and I got EQ7 for Christmas (the nagging totally paid off) so there will most likely be a few more in 2013!

Learn some more difficult techniques (paper piecing and needle-turn applique in particular)

I tackled paper piecing, curved piecing, and generally gained a lot more skills in complex piecing thanks to the QAL. I'm generally a way more confident and accurate quilter these days :o) I still haven't learnt applique, but that is on my list for 2013 - along with Sashiko (stay tuned on that one - there's a really cool blog hop I'm participating in coming up soon!).

There was also my 'dream' list:

And some things I'd like to do but don't expect will actually happen this year:

Get one of my designs in Moda Bakeshop

Still dreaming of this one ;o)

Get published somehow

Amazingly I did get a tutorial published in Fat Quarterly (still get excited that it happened, lol!)

So, onward and upward for 2013 - honestly I don't think it could top this year, but you never know!

xx Jess

Saturday 29 December 2012

Holiday Happenings

A belated happy holidays/merry Christmas to you all - I did mean to do a post before Christmas etc, but the chaos of wrapping presents and calming down feral children got in the way ;o) We had a brilliant couple of days catching up with family and friends, drinking and eating way too much and general festivities. We did Christmas lunch at my parents house (complete with all my siblings and their partners, one of my cousins, and my Grandma). Chaotic but lovely :o)

We even managed to get a photo of four generations of women - my mum, my little girl, me and my Grandma (Dad's mum).

Boxing day was a bit more relaxed - we had a bunch of our closest friends over for a BBQ and drinks. Loads of fun had by all! Since then we've been having heaps of family time (Chris is on holidays for a few weeks which is awesome!) We don't have a zoo in Tasmania - but we do have ZooDoo which is a small (kind of lame) version. Think baby farm animals, Australian native animals and a few tigers and lions ;o) We visited yesterday.

Zoe was pretty smitten with the albino wallabies :o)

Apart from the whole Christmas shenanigans, I have managed to do a bit of quilty stuff in the last week - a bit of work on the patterns I'm testing, and a start on my Birds and Bees Colour Blocks quilt. This one is a free pattern by the amazing Tula Pink. I don't think I've ever been so excited about a quilt actually - it's going to be a giant bed quilt for us.  

Just to give you an idea of scale these two sections take up the entire width of my design wall (about 50"). It's going on the back burner for a while now while I catch up on bee blocks and finish pattern testing. 

I hope everyone has had/is having a wonderful holiday, 

xx Jess

Friday 21 December 2012

And we have a quilt top!

Since it's Friday and this is seriously a case of thank f*** it's finished, I'm linking up to TGIFF for the first time (although in this case TFIFF may be more appropriate).

This quilt started as an idea right near the beginning of the year, and after much back and forth between myself and Jess, evolved into our How Far Will You Go? QAL quilt - eighteen different blocks in three different sizes. I'm not totally in love with it (I'll be honest - I just made each block without really considering the end product) and it's kind of a mess of colour, but I am so proud of how much I have learnt in making it.

I probably should have waited until tomorrow to post this (it's 9pm here, and I have literally just finished putting it together, so it's taken in dusky light - not ideal :oP) but I couldn't wait, so you'll have to bear with the dodgy photography.

My points are pretty good in the main part - aside from the Wandering Foot, which I needed to trim down to size, so I've lost the points in some cases (whoops!!).

I need to decide whether to border it (and if so what fabric to use) and how to quilt it. I'm toying between an all over design (since there is so much going on already) or going all out and quilting each block individually. It may be some time before I decide :o)

But since it's done, I'm rewarding myself by playing with this collection of pretties tonight (another crappy photo - didn't plan this post all that well, did I?).

Destined to become Tula's awesome Colour Blocks quilt. And ignoring completely the list of projects that I really should be working on... 

Hope everyone has had a great week!

xx Jess

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Just in the nick of time...

Massive sigh of relief here. I really wasn't sure I'd get these made in time for giving them to the teachers before school breaks up for the year (last day of school is on Thursday so I've cut it pretty fine!)

I used the fantastic pattern by Michelle of City House Studio after seeing it pattern tested by my friend Jen earlier this year. The boys asked their teachers (and my little guy's kinder teacher aide, who is pretty much a second teacher) what their favorite colours were, and went with that. The paper piecing was heaps of fun - I always enjoy using my scraps for these kinds of projects :o)

I did deviate from the pattern for the backs (due to massive time constraints, mainly!!) - rather than a pieced book shelf I just used a solid piece of fabric, and straight line quilted it.

I'm happy with how they turned out - I'm at that nervous point now of 'will they like them?'.

Now these are done, I can finally get back to bee blocks, pattern testing and QAL blocks. And Christmas, can't forget that ;o)

xx Jess

Aurifil Winners!

First of all, I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone to entered my Aurifil Giveaway - I am completely astounded by the number of entries. And welcome to all my new followers :o)

So without further ado, the winners! The Grand Prize winner is listed first, followed by FOUR second prize winners, and FIVE third prize winners:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will be emailing you soon for your postage details!

Sunday 16 December 2012

Welcome Miss Matatabi!

I am thrilled to announce my newest blog sponsor Miss Matatabi!

Miss Matatabi is an Etsy store owned and run by Frances. She is based in Japan, and stocks an awesome range of Japanese fabrics. Most of my Melody Miller stash has come from Frances, so I can personally attest to her fabulous service and extremely fast postage :o)

Frances is offering 20% off all fat quarters through Monday 17th December - so get in fast for some awesome bargains! This includes Nursery Versery by Heather Ross, Melody Miller, Echino and loads of others.

So what fabric loveliness can you find at Miss Matatabi?

How about a huge selection of nani IRO

Melody Miller's Ruby Star Spring and Ruby Star Shining:

And a great selection of other cotton and linen Japanese fabrics. She even has a free shipping section, with some seriously gorgeous sewing tapes and trims!

You can follow Frances on her Blog, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.

I hope you'll hop over and check out some of her wares :o)

xx Jess

Friday 14 December 2012

She's Home (and a bit of fabric stashing)

I got the call yesterday as I was leaving to get my boys from school. We went straight to the sewing machine dealer. And now she's back!! I did intend to sew, sew, sew last night but the little buggers my darling sweet children had other ideas (like not going to sleep until 9pm, by which time I was ready to collapse in front of the TV). Tonight however, I am determined to get some sewing in!

You have no idea how happy this photo makes me :oD

I have had a few parcels of yumminess arrive this week. Craft Depot (an Aussie fabric shop) send out the occasional newsletter - and had a 20% off code for December (I think?) so I had a bit of a browse through their $10/m section. And found this AMH awesomeness. I have a bit of a Good Folks stash, some of which did come from Craft Depot (thanks to a heads up from Amy Badskirt) - but this one was out of stock. They obviously found a bit more - so I grabbed the last 3 metres. At $8 a metre that is seriously cheap by Aussie standards (and if you've ever looked at Good Folks on Etsy you'll know I have saved myself a small fortune!)

 Small Gathering from AMH Good Folks

I couldn't resist this one either - another AMH print from her Garden Party collection. I have a real and serious problem with collecting out of print fabrics ;o)

 I did a bit of Black Friday shopping too - some of which arrived earlier in the week from the lovely Julie at The Intrepid Thread.

A couple of yards of this Cameo voile by Amy Butler. I've read how soft voile is - but I had no idea what the reality would be. It is just gorgeous! I'm slightly scared of actually sewing it (it's quite slippery). I was thinking I'd make a Tova with it (not that I've actually finished the first one yet) but now I'm not sure...

I also grabbed a few prints from Simply Colour (adore those greys and greens) - possibly for a bag for  me - and to fill up my satchel a couple of yards of the white/red print which I think would make a gorgeous quilt back.

Oh and since Katy piqued my interest in grunge fabric I had a wee peek on Etsy - and found these seriously awesome Riley Blake shaded cottons from Sew Me A Song. I really need some of these in my stash!!

Image from Sew Me A Song

Hope everyone has had a fabulous week! Any exciting plans for the weekend? Or are you like me and trying to get slightly organised for the impending chaos that happens on the 25th?

xx Jess

Thursday 13 December 2012

All About Quilting

This post is intended to be part of the HFWYG QAL, but it's a pretty general 'how I decide how to quilt'. Be warned, this is an extremely long and wordy post!

Machine or Hand Quilting?

I'm a machine quilter (it's fast becoming one of my favourite parts of the quilt making process), so most of this post will be more relevant to that. But there are some really great hand quilting tutorials out there - one of my favourites being Kate Conklin's fantastic tutorial. 

Either quilting method would work beautifully on the QAL quilt - just be aware that hand quilting is probably going to take a lot longer than quilting by machine ;o)

Choosing Your Thread:

I always use 100% cotton thread for piecing and quilting - but there are quite a few people who swear by polyester thread, or poly-cotton (Angela Walters being one of them). Really I would use what you, and your machine like. Personally I love using Aurifil, but I've also used Mettler and Gutermann thread and gotten great results, so it really comes down to personal preference. 

When it comes to thread colour, it depends on the quilt. Most of you doing the QAL are using a single background colour. I would suggest matching your thread to the background if possible, or choosing a colour that will blend fairly well on the print fabrics as well. If you have a variety of background colours, try to choose a thread that will blend fairly well on most of the fabrics. A great way to do this is to lay a strand of each of your potential threads across your quilt top, stand back and decide which one is going to look best.

If you're keen to change threads between the print and background parts, I would suggest choosing a thread that's lighter than the print fabrics, rather than darker, as this will tend to blend better. A light grey is often a good choice on busy fabrics - it tends to blend fairly well into a wide range of colours.

Deciding How to Quilt:

Straight Line Quilting:

I love the look of dense straight line quilting - I just don't have the patience to do it ;o) If you're keen to do vertical straight lines, I would do my first line about 1/4" away from the seam between Section 1 and the rest of the quilt, and then use the edge of your walking foot as a guide to keep the lines reasonably straight. You could also do horizontal lines without having to mark your quilt - if you follow the seam at the bottom of Section 2 and across into Section 1, and then echo this line using your walking foot. 

Finn's Quilt - straight line quilting.

Diagonal straight lines would also be great - you will need to mark your first line if you're going to do this.

Some great tutorials on straight line quilting are:

Free Motion Quilting:

Choosing a Design:

The options for FMQing are endless. If you're newish to FMQ you may like to choose and all-over design such as stippling, which really does give a wonderful texture to quilts. 

 Just Wing It - large stipple

But really, don't be afraid to try a different all over design. I was pretty new to FMQ when I quilted my 1001 Peeps quilt last December - I used an all-over Echo Shell motif (which is now one of my staples in my quilty repertoire). It is just as easy as stippling, and the texture is superb. I find it's pretty easy to avoid getting trapped in a corner with this one, too.

1001 Peeps - Echo Shells

A brilliant source of FMQ ideas is Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting site - it's my go-to site for getting ideas.

The other alternative is to do 'custom quilting', with a range of different motifs in different areas of the quilt. To plan this out, I would take a front-on photo of your quilt, and print out a few copies in black and white and sketch, sketch, sketch. 

Just FYI, I have absolutely no idea how I'll be quilting mine yet - although I adore how Jane quilted her Desperate Housewives quilt a couple of months ago, and I'm kind of tempted to try something like that :o)

Tackling the Quilting:

For a large quilt such as this one, I would approach all over quilting like this:

By starting at the centre and quilting a quarter at a time, you'll have most of the quilt supported on the table and you won't be dragging too much weight with your arms. So for the first quarter, I would roll/fold up your quilt from the bottom side in this image, quilt down toward you, unroll a bit, quilt back up and repeat until you reach the middle or corner. Then repeat for the other quarters, turning the quilt for each quarter so most of the weight is supported on the table.

Right, sorry if your brain is now mush from information overload. Any questions please comment here or send me an email and I'll get back to you ASAP!

xx Jess


Wednesday 12 December 2012

WIP Wednesday - Planning and Pattern Testing

While my machine has been out of action, I've been trying to get stuff done that doesn't rely on accurate piecing.  So, I've been making teacher presents for the amazing women who have taught my sons this year. Earlier this year, my fabulous friend Jen pattern tested for Michelle of City House Studio and made her fab 'Read Library Bag'. I instantly knew it was perfect for teacher presents. I've done the back and front panels, made the lining and am just waiting on my machine to quilt the outer panels and put them together. The boys asked their teachers what their favourite colours were, and I was under strict instructions not to deviate from it (hence all the pink and purple!!)

I've also agreed to pattern test for a couple of my quilty friends - these don't need to be done until mid-late January, so I'll have plenty of time to get them done, once I've finished up my HFWYG QAL quilt (I SO want my machine back so I can finish it off!!!) The plan is to start cutting for these while I wait for Friday and the return of my baby ;o)

First up, I'm pattern testing for the uber talented Jess - making her Lucky Square quilt in the twin size. This will be for my little girl - and I'm using my Sherbet Pips stash (plus a few other Aneela Hoey fabrics). Jess's used a much wider range of colours, so I'll be interested to see how it looks in a more restricted palette.

And then my gorgeous and talented friend Alyce asked if I'd test her first full size pattern (which is seriously fab!). Cue my FMF stash, plus a few other Denyse Schmidt prints. I'm deciding on background still (probably ash or white), but I'm really excited about this one too!

I also have bee blocks a plenty to catch up on, so I'm going to be busy, busy, busy for the next couple of months!

Oh, and please check out my Massive Aurifil Giveaway happening right now - it's open until next Monday.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced (button in sidebar) - and looking forward to seeing what everyone is up to!

xx Jess

Sunday 9 December 2012

Aurifil Thread Giveaway {Quilting Gallery Blog Hop Party}

To celebrate their 5th Birthday, the Quilting Gallery is hosting a fabulous Blog Hop Party, with a heap of awesome giveaways to enter! If you're visiting for the first time, welcome! I'd love you to have a look around my blog :o)

Blog Hop Party with Give-Aways

I am totally thrilled to have a give away sponsored by Aurifil - I have a stack of Aurifil Thread to give away to TEN lucky people!

My regular readers will probably have noticed I love Aurifil thread - and I use it for pretty much all my quilting and piecing - so I'm extremely excited to be able to share the love today. Aurifil Cotton Mako is long-staple Egyptian cotton - strong but fine and I find it leaves virtually no lint in my machine. It comes in a number of thread weights so it's ideal for a huge range of projects.

Although I've not used it, Aurifil also produce Lana Wool thread, a 12wt thread ideal for cross stitch and embroidery, hand and machine applique, even in quilting.

 Some of my recent projects using Aurifil are:


And Emma's Quilt:

So I know you really want to know - what are the prizes? Read on!!

The Grand Prize! 

One Prize Winner will recieve:

1. An Aurifil Cotton Mako Thread Colour Chart

2. An Aurifil Lana Wool Thread Colour Chart

3. A 1000 metre spool of 40wt grey thread, and a sample pack of various colours and thread types.

Second Prize!

FOUR Winners will receive:

1. One of these large thread spools (either Lana Wool or Cotton Mako - randomly selected)

2. An Aurifil Sample pack.

Third Prize

FIVE Winners will receive an Aurifil Sample Pack. 

To enter to win one of these fabulous prizes, please use the Rafflecopter Widget below. The Give away will remain open until 12am 17th December (Australian Eastern Standard time), and winners will be announced on this blog post. Winners will be contacted by email. I am happy to post anywhere in the world.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure you check out the other give aways happening over at the Quilting Gallery - there are sure to be loads of goodies!

Full disclosure - Aurifil sent me this thread to give away on my blog, but the words and thoughts on Aurifil are completely my own. I have been using this thread for the last 12 months or so and I haven't looked back.

I apologise, but due to the massive number of comments I'm not able to respond to each one. I'm enjoying reading them all though!

Saturday 8 December 2012

{QAL} Putting your quilt top together

Ok troops! How is everyone going with the QAL blocks? I've hit a wall unfortunately (the sewing machine saga continues - and due to needing a replacement part, my machine won't be back in my possession until at least the end of next week) so I haven't quite finished my blocks... If you're in the same boat and don't think you'll get them all done - don't panic! Jess has put together a couple of potential layouts for smaller lap sized quilts - and there is a whole prize category for smaller quilts, so you could still enter! For each of these, the block options are endless. Both of these quilts finish at 45" x 50 without the border.

Modern sampler:

Traditional sampler:

Thankfully my better half in the QAL has done an amazing job and finished all her blocks, pieced them into the quilt top (and quilted it - but we won't mention that too loudly ;o) ). Jess has written an incredibly detailed post about putting it all together - you can read all about it over at Scrappy 'n' Happy :o)

I've stolen Jess's quilt photo because it's just gorgeous.

I'd love to know how you're all going. Do you think you'll finish the whole Twin quilt? Are you planning on making a lap quilt, or smaller quilted item?

I'll be back next week with some ideas on quilting it. I won't be able to show you any actual quilting on my quilt unfortunately, but I'll be sharing my process for deciding on how to quilt and will probably show a bit of quilty eye candy :o)

Oh, and I'll be announcing the SMS Giveaway Day winner later tonight (if I don't fall in a heap first!!)

Stay tuned for Monday as well - I have a mahusive Aurifil giveaway starting!

xx Jess

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Building Blocks Tuesday - where I've nearly caught up!

My lovely friend Jen (aka Newbie Jen, quilter in the closet) has just started a new weekly linky party called Building Blocks Tuesday - great name, don't you think?

Quilter in the Closet

And since I've been madly trying to get my blocks done for the HFWYG? QAL I actually have been 'building blocks'. I only have a few of the 5" blocks left to do - but there's a bit of a drama. I took my sewing machine in to be serviced yesterday and I've borrowed my old machine from my sister. Total first world problem here - but I HATE it. I never used it for complicated patchwork (ie just squares back when I started quilting) and I quickly discovered the 'patchwork foot' I'd been using actually sews a 3/8" seam - and the foot is designed so that I can't shift my needle position to fix it. Soooo, instead of ripping pretty much every seam three or four times I'm leaving the rest of my blocks until I have my machine back :o)

I persevered yesterday and made these:

 Jack in the Box

 Crazy Ann

All the blocks together (a couple of small holes where the remaining blocks will go). Apologies for the horrible photo - my design wall is not well lit ;o)

I'll admit I have been wondering if it would just look like a big mess (and it kind of still does) - but I actually really like it. I'll probably swap a few blocks around to try and balance it a bit but the layout is pretty much there.

xx Jess

Monday 3 December 2012

Giveaway Day!

It's Giveaway Day again over at Sew Mama Sew!

I'll keep this post short and sweet - I'm sure you just want to get on with the giveaway ;o) If you're new to my blog, welcome! 

I'm offering up eight fat quarters of Violet Craft fabric - mostly Peacock Lane, with an FQ of the texty print from Madrona Road (which just coordinates sooooo well). 

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget below (this is my first time using Rafflecopter so please bear with me if there are any hiccups.)

The giveaway will remain open until 5pm PST (USA time) - or as close as I can get :o) I am happy to post anywhere in the world.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

xx Jess

Sunday 2 December 2012

Conquering my fears

Remember I was excited about having a whole day to sew, and my grand plans of catching up with the HFWYG QAL? Yeah. I really need to be a bit more realistic about how much time things actually take. I did manage to get two blocks done (and the list still to do is getting smaller) - it's just I was hoping that number would be a wee bit higher ;o)

The time-sucking culprit was this block - a traditional block called Wandering Foot. I'll be honest - when Jess chose this one I was terrified. Curves. Y-seams. The block from hell in my book. But, thanks to Jess's seriously fabulous tutorial I made it sans swearing or seam ripping. Amazing!

It's a 20" block, and it's far from perfect - but I conquered my fear of y-seams so I'm calling it a win :o)

I also made my Grandmother's choice block - not 100% happy with my fabric choices, but once I have all the blocks together I'll decide whether to remake it or not.

Off to finish a couple more tonight hopefully. 

Hope everyone has had (or is having) a great weekend - don't forget to check back tomorrow for my SMS Giveaway Day post. It may (or may not) involve Violet Craft...

xx Jess