Wednesday 30 October 2013

Needle Turn Applique {Tutorial}

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been learning how to do needle turn applique; the second and third borders in the Midnight at the Oasis quilt involve a lot of applique, something I haven't done a lot of. I will be talking more about the different applique options in my QAL post this Friday, but this is a fairly long tutorial so I thought I'd dedicate a whole post to it :o)

Needle turn applique (where you turn the raw edge of the applique piece under with your needle as you sew it to the foundation piece) seems to be the holy grail of applique techniques. Certainly with practice you can achieve some pretty remarkable results. For me, one of the gurus of needle turn is Sarah Fielke - and I am lucky enough to have a DVD (that came with an issue of Quilters Companion magazine) where Sarah demonstrates her technique. The technique for needle turn applique I'll demonstrate here is based pretty closely on Sarah's technique. I have Sarah's permission to share this here - but you can also learn this technique via Sarah's Craftsy class, or by purchasing the same DVD I have used through her website (you'll need to scroll down to the bottom of the linked page) (Disclaimer - I am not affiliated with Craftsy or with Sarah's store at all, I just wanted to let you know where you can learn more!)

One of the brilliant things about this applique technique is that it takes very little preparation, and it is extremely portable.

Making your Templates:

The first thing you'll need to do is make templates of your applique shape. There are a few ways you can do this - trace the shape onto template plastic and cut it out.

Or (as suggested by Sarah) use Quick Laminate sheets (available from office supply stores). I've been using these to make my templates for my hand-pieced Bring Me Flowers BOM blocks, and it is so quick and easy. You just peel back the top clear sticky layer, put your photocopy of the template on the bottom card sheet, smooth the sticky layer back over it and cut out your template. This is such a genius method!

Preparing your Fabric:

Once you've cut your background fabric to size, you'll need to mark both the diagonals on your fabric. To do this, you can use a dissolvable fabric marker, or a hera marker.

To prepare your applique shape, you will need to trace around your prepared template onto the right side of your fabric. Sarah recommends using a silver gel pen for this - which is what I've been doing and it works brilliantly. It makes it easy to see your stitching line since it glitters slightly, and the gel inks sits on top of the fabric and mostly wears away as you're stitching around the shape. Any remaining pen should wash away when you wash the quilt (and honestly it's barely noticeable anyway.) Trim your fabric to a scant 1/4 inch around the edge of the shape.

Once you're ready to start sewing, finger press around the line you've drawn onto your fabric shape - this will make it easier to turn the edge under when you are sewing it down.

Needle Turn Applique:

Find the centre on your background fabric, and pin the applique piece in place. I found by turning under one side of the centre point, I could pin it pretty close to the intended position. Line the other end up as well and pin in place.

 Use a thread that is matched to your applique piece, rather than the background. If you're stitching is a little off (like mine) it won't be nearly as noticable. I've been using Aurifil 50wt in colours that are reasonably close to the applique colours, and it's worked really well.

To start, tie a knot in the end of your thread (I use this method). Take your needle up through the applique piece (not the background) right on your drawn line. Turn under the first little bit of the seam allowance with your needle, right where you've bought the needle through.

For your first stitch, put the needle down into the background fabric right next to where you came through the applique piece, and travel a small way under the fabric before bringing your needle back through.

Catch a few threads on the applique piece, and bring your needle all the way through, gently pulling the thread tight.

Turn the next section of seam allowance under with your needle, and stitch down into the background right next to where you came through the applique piece. Again, travel a short distance (about 1/4") under the background, before bringing the needle back up through and catching a few threads of the applique piece.

Continue stitching in this way around the edge of your applique piece until you get to the point. Bring your needle out right at the point.

Make an extra stitch right at the point of your applique shape. 

Use your needle to turn in the seam allowance at the point - this is a little tricky to start with, but if you turn too much under you can gently tug on the thread to bring the point out again. Then, continue stitching around the applique piece.

Once you've stitched all the way around, take your needle through to the back and either make a small knot, or do a couple of tiny stitches on top of each other to finish the thread.

And that's it! My shapes aren't perfect, but I'm getting better with practice. I didn't think I'd enjoy this part all that much - but it is actually really relaxing. The more I do hand work the more I love it :o)

Any questions please don't hesitate to ask! I'll be back on Friday with a few more ideas for applique techniques you could use.

xx Jess

Friday 25 October 2013

Marcelle Medallion {Blogger's Quilt Festival}

My regular readers have been inundated with photos of this quilt during it's construction - so apologies for bombarding you once again! I've decided to enter my Marcelle Medallion into the Blogger's Quilt Festival though :o)


I began making this quilt as part of the Marcelle Medallion QAL at the beginning of September this year, hosted by Penny Poppleton (which is actually still running, I just got a bit obsessed with this quilt!). The pattern for this quilt is from Liberty Love by Alexia Abegg - a really beautiful book. It took me almost exactly a month from start to finish - you can read a lot more about it here.

I learnt so, so much while making this quilt and really enjoyed all the different types of piecing in the quilt top. It is a pretty challenging quilt, and I really enjoyed building my piecing skills, using several techniques I haven't tried before.

The palette I used was inspired by one of the Summer Totem fabrics designed by Anna Maria Horner. I used well over 200 different fabrics in the end.

I had a lot of fun with the quilting. I quilted each border slightly differently, but tried to make the piecing the star. I generally just quilted the background fabrics and left the coloured sections unquilted. As a result, they pop up from the background.

For the first and third borders, I used the fabric as inspiration for my quilting and followed the pattern in the fabric (triple stitched lines in the first border, and quilting both sides of the black lines in the third border.)

For the first time I used a wool/cotton blend batting - and I really love the extra loft it's given this quilt. I've noticed that even after washing, the quilting has remained very similar to what it was like beforehand. It hasn't seemed to shrink nearly as much as my usual bamboo batting.

I've decided to enter my quilt into the wall hanging category - it has finished up at about 59" square, and is destined to be hung in our house once I get around to making a hanging sleeve!

Quilt Stats:
Pattern: Marcelle Medallion by Alexia Abegg
Size: 59" square
Quilted: by myself on my Bernina QE440
Fabric: countless fabrics from my stash, based on Summer Totem by Anna Maria Horner.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the festival! I know I will.

xx Jess

Full Moon Lagoon Quilt {Blogger's Quilt Festival}

A couple of days ago I finally got around to binding and washing my Full Moon Lagoon quilt, just in time for this round of the Blogger's Quilt Festival. 


We took it out to the beach today for a bit of a photo shoot. Unfortunately, it happened to be a typical Tasmanian spring day (snow on the mountain, 13 degrees Celcius, gale force winds), so most of the photos looked something like this:

and this:

Not quite the idyllic calm blue sea I'd imagined as a backdrop for this quilt ;o) We did manage to find a relatively sheltered spot a bit further back on the dunes though - so you can see a teeny peek of the sea behind. This is the quilt front

and back.

Finishing this quilt has been very much a proud mama moment for me. The piecing itself was a lot of fun and made me realise how much I enjoy improv piecing. This quilt is basically a whole lot of improv pieced log cabins, pieced together like a puzzle using extra strips of fabric as needed. The fabric I used is the gorgeous Full Moon Lagoon by Mo Bedell for Andover fabrics - plus a whole bunch of other coordinating fabrics from my stash (lots of Lizzy House, Tula Pink, Anna Maria Horner and a few others). 

I really pushed myself with the quilting - I wanted to add loads of texture to the quilt top, using motifs reminiscent of being underwater (ripples, bubbles, swirls etc) without detracting from the quilt top. For the quilting, I chose a range of 50wt Aurifil thread to blend into the fabric as much as possible, so it didn't dominate the fabric but would add an abundance of texture. My quilting is not at all perfect - it's the not-quite-circular swirls etc that jump out at me when I look at it - but I am really pleased with what I achieved on my little domestic machine. And my little girl absolutely adores it, which is what really matters :o)

Most of the following photos I took in the relative (non windy) safety of our house.

Washing this quilt has made a massive difference to all the texture, and it has made it surprisingly soft and drapey considering the density of the quilting. I've gone a bit overboard with the photos here - these are some of my favorite parts of the quilt.

I didn't notice until I was looking through the photos that I actually missed the bottom corner of this seahorse block. Whoops! My camera had a really hard time photographing the pink accurately - the photo above is the closest to the actual colours.

I left many of the larger images (seahorses, flowers etc) un-quilted - and as a result they pop up from the background really nicely.

I also left some random strips entirely un-quilted, just to add a bit more variety to the quilt.

I was avoiding these feet in photos during the entire photo shoot - so I had to add just one in here. My three year old daughter is completely smitten with her newest quilt which makes all the (many, many) hours that went into to it completely worth it :o)

For the binding, I decided to piece a bunch of the left over strips together, vaguely following the colours around the edge of the quilt. It doesn't quite match each section completely - but it does well enough for an improv quilt, I think!

I've decided to enter this quilt into the Home Machine quilted category in the Blogger's Quilt Festival. It is entirely quilted on my Bernina QE440 (the same machine I use to piece and quilt all my quilts). A few people have commented during the making of this quilt that they didn't think this kind of quilting was possible on a domestic machine. It absolutely is - it just takes a really long time and a lot of quilt wrangling. I think the quilting on this one took around 30 hours, done a few hours at a time.

Quilt Stats:

* Fabric - Full Moon Lagoon by Mo Bedell, plus a range of coordinating fabric from my stash. 
* Quilt design - improvisationally pieced using log cabins.
* Size - finished size is about 70" square.
* Quilting - done by me on my domestic Bernina.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the festival! Huge thanks to Amy for organising this event again - it's definitely one of my favorite blogging events of the year. 

xx Jess 

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Low volume wonky crosses

A couple of weeks ago, I splurged and bought a second sample pack from Maze & Vale. I had been regularly pulling my first one out trying to figure out what I wanted to do, so when Leslie posted on Facebook that she had just listed a few low volume sample packs, I nabbed one pretty quickly. I think the thing I really love about these packs are that they have a wonderful range of base cloth in them - from linen to canvas to really high thread count cotton (possibly sateen? They are a bit shiny anyway.) Plus the hand prints themselves are just gorgeous.

When it arrived I started to have a few ideas about what I'd like to do with them. Ever since seeing Sarah's AMAZING low volume forest quilt (seriously go have a look. It is unbelievably gorgeous.) I've been wanting to make a (mostly) low volume quilt. I love my super saturated colours, but really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and make something really subdued. To me it's a really beachy palette; sand, rocks and waves. The top row here are all the Maze and Vale handprints, and the bottom are a bunch of lower volume fabrics from my stash.

After all the precision involved in making my Marcelle and now Midnight at the Oasis, I was really craving some improv piecing. I haven't done wonky crosses before so I thought I'd have a play making those to start with (and they are seriously fun. And addictive.) Once I got going I added a couple of Echo prints, since they have the same hand-print feel and the colours are perfect.

I'm not quite sure where I'm headed with these still - but we have a lot of freshly painted bare walls that need decoration, so I'm thinking it will end up a smallish wall quilt for our dining area. 

In other news, I finally got the binding on my Full Moon Lagoon quilt and washed it today so I'm hoping for some decent photo weather tomorrow so it's ready for the big reveal for Blogger's Quilt Festival on Friday :o)

xx Jess

Saturday 19 October 2013

Purse Palooza - Necessary Clutch Wallet

A couple of months ago the lovely Sara from Sew Sweetness asked me if I'd like to write up a pattern review for Purse Palooza 2013. I immediately said yes - the wallet I'd been using for the last couple of years had recently busted a few seams, so it gave me a great reason to get my act together and sew myself a new one. If you head over to Sara's blog (sometime soon I think) you can read my review - but I thought I'd share a few photos here as well :o)

I used one of my very favourite Melody Miller prints for the exterior, accented with Kona Cerise - I figured it's something I'll use all the time, so it was worth making it in a fabric I love. It has LOADS of space inside for cards, a huge coin pouch and closes with a twist lock.

I didn't realise until earlier today that the divided section in the middle is designed to hold a phone - it's been tested now and it really is the perfect size for my phone. Complete win.

I'm not normally a matchy-matchy person at all - but the fact that it fits perfectly in the front pocket of my Melody Miller messenger bag and coordinates rather beautifully is a bit of a bonus :o)

xx Jess

Thursday 17 October 2013

Midnight at the Oasis - Centre Block {QAL}

Welcome to the first post in the Midnight at the Oasis QAL! Before I get stuck into talking about the centre block, I wanted to mention a few things about the QAL. First of all, there will be a few prizes for the final linky party (next year! Yikes!) - details to come in the next few weeks. Second of all, Sharon and I have decided to host a linky party with each QAL post so that everyone can share their progress - these will start in the next post (so in two weeks time you can link up your centre block). If you can't wait you can always add your progress to the Flickr group, or on Instagram using the tag #midnightoasisqal.

There are a few elements involved in the centre block - the triangle sections, the centre circle applique and attaching the 'E' pieces using y-seams.

Triangle Sections:

I decided to paper piece the triangle sections (small triangles and I are not friends). To do this, I simply traced the triangle template onto blank paper, without adding a seam allowance, in strips of seven, five and three plus one for the tip of the triangle. If you choose to use this method, please keep in mind that you will have to add 1/4" seam allowance around the edge of each of these pieces when you cut them out. Apologies for the blob on this photo - I think my three year old has been poking inside the shutter of my camera!

Sharon has written up an excellent step by step tutorial for how she actually paper pieced these (so I won't reinvent the wheel. I'm lazy like that ;o) ) You could of course cut your triangles individually and piece them together without the paper foundation - although I think with all the bias edges involved, paper piecing them is the way to go.

Centre Applique:

I actually cheated a bit here - I decided to fussy cut one of Melody Miller's fabulous ladies and just applique a single circle rather than the three circles used in the pattern. Unfortunately I didn't consider that the centre is on point - so my lady is at an angle. Whoops. But considering this was my first time appliqueing anything by hand, I'm quite happy with the result :o)

To prep my circle, I used Sarah Fielke's fantastic method using aluminium foil, a cardboard circle and an iron - you can watch her method here. Once my circle was prepped, I slip stitched it in place. The circle fabric is a cotton/linen blend and is probably closer to a home dec weight than quilting cotton, so it is a little bulky, and because of that it isn't quite a perfect circle (I'm convincing myself that's the reason rather than my lack of applique skills, okay?). I like how it pops up a wee bit from the background though.


Once I had made the triangles and centre circle, I sewed each triangle section to the side of the circle - and kept my paper on for this step. By only stitching along the line at the base of the template, and not stitching into the seam allowance, I was able to attach the 'E' sections using y-seams. I used Faith's great y-seam tutorial for this. I did have a few problems with this step - mostly because I'm a total y-seam novice. I unpicked a few of them countless times and still didn't get them sitting very flat. Obviously a bit of y-seam practice would be worthwhile before I attempt them again ;o) It was actually my partner who suggested 'steam and starch' might help - he is becoming surprisingly well trained as a quilter's husband!

This is the before starch shot. Very, very wavy and not sitting at all flat.

But by the magic of (a shit load of) starch, it is actually sitting surprisingly flat :o) Night time photo for this one, which is why the colours are a bit off.

I did lose my corner points a bit - but once it's all put together I'm pretty sure it won't be too noticable.

The next border is appliqued orange peels - I'm planning on needle turn appliqueing these so I'll be getting quite a bit of practice :o) I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone's centre blocks - a few have been popping up on Instagram already and they are all looking fantastic.

xx Jess

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Marcelle Medallion {Finished}

This quilt has had the perfect ending. I spent a blissful afternoon hand stitching the binding and chatting to one of my closest friends while our kids played and we stitched. I know I say this about almost every quilty finish - but this quilt is my absolute favorite I've ever made. I think part of that is due to how enjoyable it was to put together - mainly because it changes so much with the addition of each border, and because it really tested my skills as a quilter.

When I first saw versions of this quilt popping up in blogland this year, I knew for sure I wanted to make it. I didn't think much more about it until Penny Poppleton announced her Marcelle Medallion QAL, and in the same week my daughter spotted Alexia Abegg's Liberty Love book in my local Spotlight. It was fate.

The colours for this quilt were inspired by a piece of Summer Totem fabric from Anna Maria Horner's gorgeous Loulouthi collection - although it evolved somewhat from my initial fabric pull. I made it completely from stash (as opposed to scraps) but used well over 200 different fabrics, so it has a bit of a scrappy feel I guess.

I deliberately chose quilting designs that would enhance the piecing, and used a range of Aurifil thread colours to blend into the fabric as much as possible.

I used a different batting for the first time in this quilt. Ordinarily I use Matilda's Own bamboo batting - I know lots of people have had bad experiences with bamboo batting, but I really love it. I tend to buy batting by the roll - and when I ordered my latest lot I decided to get something with a little more loft. This one is a wool/cotton blend - it is a similar weight to bamboo or cotton, but has a little bit more loft. My quilting has a little more puff than usual, which I like a lot.

The quilting in the third border is completely inspired by blatantly copied from the way the amazing Krista Withers quilted a Marcelle Medallion recently, although I extended the design across the whole last three borders - following the straight lines in the grey/teal border up into the crosses. I used light grey Aurifil (2615) for this, and it has blended into the various low volume fabrics flawlessly.

You can read more about my quilting choices here and here.  

The one thing I'm not so stoked about with this quilt is the back. I think I rushed the basting too much, and as a result I have a few pretty hefty folds in the backing fabric. Since it's going to be a wall quilt anyway, I'm not at all phased by this. I still haven't washed it, but I'll take some 'after' photos as well - I'll be interested to see how the first and third borders look once washed.

Quilt Stats:

Pattern: Marcelle Medallion by Alexia Abegg
Fabric: a huge range of different collections and designers
Quilting: Done by me on my domestic Bernina, using Aurifil thread
Size: 60" square.