Monday 24 April 2017

Ice Cream Soda Quilt - Month 2

Another month, another set of eight Ice Cream Soda Quilt blossoms. And I am still absolutely loving this project! And exciting news for those of you who may have missed the sign ups back in February - Jodi has announced that she'll be opening up another round of sign ups in May, so if you're keen to join in on the fun, be sure to follow her over on Instagram. 

I'm finding it really helpful to take pictures of all these blossoms together every so often, to get a grip on what colours I'm lacking and to check that it is going to work overall. I love the fact that it is going to be super scrappy and look really unplanned, even though I'm carefully selecting and fussy cutting all the fabrics for each blossom. I need to concentrate on using more pinks, reds and purples this month, especially in the outer rings, to try to make it a bit more balanced. 

Like last month, I'm still using lots of my favorite designers - Lizzy House, Tula Pink, Heather Ross and Anna Maria Horner are all making frequent appearances.

One of my favorite finds for this project has been Heather Bailey's True Colours collection. I bought a bundle of these from the Fat Quarter Shop (in one of their flash sales, so it was something like 50% off - bargain!), and they are so perfect for fussy cutting. The centre of this blossom (one of my personal favorites) features one of these prints in the centre. I find sometimes geometric prints are difficult to fussy cut, as they aren't always symmetrical. Not a problem with these, and I can see myself using them in lots of my blossoms.

No colour is being ignored for this quilt - I'm even including brown (a totally underrated colour in my opinion!) I am SO in love with these hedgehogs wandering around the edge of this blossom!

I wasn't sure about the centre of this one initially (deliberately cut so that the arrows are offset from each other), but it's really grown on me and I have decided I love it.

I haven't forgotten about my promises of some English Paper Piecing tutorials either - between my middle child turning 10, Easter, school holidays, some secret sewing (plus work and life in general) I just haven't had time. But once school is back I plan to get them sorted!

I have some other exciting news too. I've been practicing like mad quilting pantographs on a long arm at one of my local quilt shops, ready to offer customer quilting. So I'm extremely excited to announce that I'm now available to do edge to edge quilting for customers! I'll share more details about that really soon!!

xx Jess

Wednesday 19 April 2017

A wee bit of FMQ {Suzy Q Panel for BERNINA Australia}

Back in March, BERNINA Australia contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in quilting a small panel to be part of a display in their booth at the Australasian Quilt Convention (AQC) this year. Of course I said yes (I mean, what an honour!), and had a LOT of fun quilting it. A group of textile artists and quilters from around Australia have been busy working their magic on these panels, and I really wish I could make it to AQC this year to see them all hanging together - it will be a fabulous display, and it will be so interesting to see how people approach it. If any of my readers are going to AQC this year, I would be forever in your debt if you could snap a few pictures of the display for me, so I can see what they all look like together!

It took me a few weeks to decide how I wanted to approach the quilting on this. The panel measures about 45cm x 75cm, and features a girl's face with flowers in her hair and a really cool geometric hexagon-type design. I knew I wanted to play around with geometric quilting in and around the hexagon, but I was a bit stumped as to what to do around the face. In the end, I decided to roughly outline quilt the flowers and leaves and facial features, and then surround the face with swirls. I haven't done any FMQ since November last year, so it was really lovely to spend a few hours quilting this up last week.

I used Aurifil 40wt (2021) for the swirls and outline quilting. It blends amazingly well into the background fabric, and even for the outline quilting. I probably could have used a darker thread for the facial features, but I love that the white thread has given her face definition without distracting from the printing on the panel. It also meant I could be a bit more 'sketchy' with my quilting (and it wouldn't be too obvious if I didn't quite quilt right on the printed lines), whereas using a darker (ie charcoal) thread would have required far more precision and would risk looking pretty dodgy if I missed those lines!

The geometric quilting is all free motion quilted using Aurifil 40wt in a variegated orange/yellow (4658). I love using variegated threads, and I particularly love how this one plays with the soft, warm colours in the panel. I love doing this kind of random geometric straight line FMQ - it's fast and so much fun to do! Plus it gives such a great texture, and looks pretty fabulous alongside curvy quilting such as swirls or pebbles. 

 If you're lucky enough to be going to AQC over the next four days, please go say hi to my little quilt - and check out what is sure to be a fabulous display from talented quilters all over Australia! If you are on Instagram and manage to get a photo, please tag me (@ElvenGardenQuilts) so I can check it out :o).

xx Jess

Saturday 15 April 2017

Meet the Hosts - Ella from Throw a Wench in the Works

Today it's time to meet another one of the Finish A Long 2017 hosts. This month I'm delighted to introduce Ella, who blogs at Throw a Wench in the Works. I've known Ella online for a long time, and she was actually my swap partner for the Sailors Mouth Swap back in 2012 when I made her my Sweary Tula quilt. I hope you enjoy learning all about Ella! 

Hi, I'm Ella, here at throwawenchintheworks. *waves hello* Welcome to a Meet the Maker Finish-A-Long installment, featuring me!

If you're new to the my blog, let me tell you a bit about me. I'm a teacher in Atlanta. (Still trying to wrap my head around the recent bridge collapse on I-85.) I've moved around a lot in my life, but I think Atlanta is home now. (I do miss the fall in Upstate NY, but I don't miss the winters.) I love Atlanta. It's extremely diverse. I love the blend of big city and neighborhoods. I love The Center for Puppetry Arts (and its huge Henson collection).


I love the Botanical Gardens.


I LOVE Dragoncon!


I live here with my husband (commonly referred to by me as The Pirate...because Pirates are awesome), a smooshy senior cocker spaniel (who has ruined me for all other dogs and who I need to clone into an army of lovey dogs), and a slightly evil tuxedo kitty (think Brain from "Pinky and the Brain").

Obligatory animal pictures:
IMG_0282      IMG_0298

(Sorry, the tongue is a bit disturbing, but I still find her forcible grooming, usually limited to his floofy hair, HILARIOUS.)

I'm new to hosting the Finish-a-Long, but I've been a long time participant (and long time overachieving list maker). I started blogging back in 2011. A bit of trivia about my blog name. I'm also a bellydancer (although my knee issue has me a bit sidelined right now), hence the wench part. I tend to throw myself into things whole-heartedly, but I'm also a, um, the wench in the works. I didn't think about how often folks would read it as "wrench" and have trouble finding my blog. Ah well.

Ironically, I used to teach photography and now most of my pictures tend to be taken in my poorly lit living room at odd hours of the night. I *can* take better pictures; I *should* take better pictures; I'm just mostly working on things in the night-time. I apologize for that.

I started blogging the summer I decided to officially learn how to quilt. I've been sewing and knitting since I was little. (My mom taught me how to sew, by hand and by machine. My aunt taught me to knit when I was in third grade.) I made a quilt for my dorm room in college, but I don't count it as a quilt that was completely mine because my mom hand tied it. It didn't survive many washings.

I don't actually have most of my first quilts any more from back in 2011.
When I started sewing again back in 2011, after many years of hiatus, I was initially obsessed with disappearing nine patches. I gave most of them away. The one below went to a friend going through chemo.
batik quilt

In my first foray into non disappearing 9 patch quilts, I made a HORRIBLE quilt. I used crappy fabric that did NOT stand up to being washed, which was probably also a product of my seams being totally inconsistent. Ahem, I was in a horrible Hawaiian shirt theme for the quilts.

Rockin Robin completed top!

It was part of a Row Robin that was launched online. I loved the community that I found there. Folks were supportive and kind. That led to swaps and lots of groups on Flickr. (Remember when Flickr was awesome? *Sigh.*) I did a ton of block swaps, even ran the 4x6 for a while. I admit, I have not been blogging as much as I did in the past. Now, I tend to spend time over on Instagram, but the online community is still HUGELY important to me.

I felt like, as I had with the bellydance community, I found a "tribe" to which I belonged.  I had space to learn, people were so generous with their knowledge, and I could let my geek flag fly.  I got to meet folks in real life from my first do.good.stitches group visiting Atlanta, Sewing Summit in Salt Lake City, Sewtopia here in Atlanta, Sisters in Oregon, and many years of The Stash Bash.  I'm kind of a spazz and feel incredibly awkward in big social groups.  Going to new places feels like a big deal.  (If you ever meet me, this won't necessarily feel true.  I TALK A LOT.  I TALK MORE when I'm nervous.)  I feel lucky to have met so many awesome, amazing women who remain important to me.  

Charity is still a fundamental part of my sewing.  I run the Serenity Circle as part of do.good.stitches.  My circle makes quilts for hospice.  I do this to honor my grandmother.  She was a maker her whole life, making dresses for mission work, mittens in the winter, newborn items for hospitals.  When she died, I saw how much the crochet blanket a stranger made impacted my mother.  I'd love to do that for someone I will never meet with my quilts, to give some comfort in a really difficult time.  I try to make as many as I can each year.  

I've started doing a kindness project this year.  I was feeling overwhelmed by how mean the world was seeming.  I was constantly stressed.  Sewing helped me deal with that.  So far, I made over 40 infinity scarves to give to women I know to let them know they are amazing and loved and seen.  My next project is pincushions.  This lets me do at least something small to impact others, to spread a bit of love.

I've grown a lot as a quilter in the last 7 years.  I still have a long way to go.  (I still mostly straight-line.  FMQ is still my nemesis.)  I'm still addicted to QALs.  I seem to have to have AT LEAST a dozen things spinning at a time.  I can't seem to walk away from a challenge.  I have only put 2 quilts in shows (the poppy below and the hexy garden).  I'm trying to get braver about that.  Quilting is still my least favorite part.  I want to learn how to use a long arm this year.  Goals!

Here are some of my favorite finishes:

batik challengeBubbles

quilt show!Zelda quilt

Death Star

I have another mahoosive finish-a-long list for Quarter 2 (I'm a card carrying member of Archie the Wonder Dog's #ridiculouslylongFAList)!  

Here are a couple of WIPs that I will hopefully complete this quarter:

sugar skull topViolet Craft lion

I'm looking forward to cheerleading this year. Y'all are amazing!  Thank you to the phenomenal women of the Finish-A-Long for letting me join in the fun.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Sew Together Madness

Last weekend, I stayed up WAY too late sewing together a couple of Sew Together bags. I'd cut all the pieces and quilted the exterior panels the weekend before, and then Friday night I stayed up till 2am sewing them together. Probably not the wisest decision, but loads of fun nevertheless - and it was worth the total lack of brain function the next day. I absolutely adore these bags, and am so pleased with how they turned out. 

I've seen many, many versions of the Sew Together bag on the interwebs since the pattern (by Sew Demented) was released and I've always admired how great they look. And now that I've got a few hand piecing projects  on the go, I thought it was the perfect time to try the pattern out. 

I fully intended on making just one of these bags, but once I started raiding my stash to choose fabrics for them, I had difficulty choosing what to use. So I bit the bullet and just made two. They're both made using Anna Maria Horner fabrics - I find bags are a great way to use large scale prints I adore, but that might be difficult to use in quilts. It might seem slightly ridiculous making two, but I have two English Paper Piecing (EPP) projects on the go, and these bags will make it so much easier to stay organised and avoid losing papers, basted shapes and cut fabrics. 

I'm pretty positive you would have seen many versions of these bags by now - but I can't emphasise enough how awesome they are. When zipped up they are a nice sized little bag, and the outer zip doubles as a handle. 

When unzipped they are just fantastic. They fit SO MUCH STUFF inside them. So much. And when they're open, everything inside is totally visible - so when I'm sitting on the couch hand-piecing, they work awesomely well. I'm a super untidy person, and I used to find it a bit frustrating to pack up all my stuff at the end of an evening of hand piecing. Happily, this is no longer a problem!! All my essential EPP supplies (needles, 80wt Aurifil, clover clips, basted shapes, partly pieced blocks, and even my envelopes of paper pieces) fit easily. 

My daughter has requested one of these for all her sewing bits and pieces (as has my sister), so I'll probably have a few more to share when I get time to make a couple more. I have a few deadlines to meet over the next few months, but once they're taken care of I fully intend to use this most excellent pattern again! 

xx Jess

Sunday 2 April 2017

Ice Cream Soda Quilt Month 1

Back in February, my friend Jodi (aka Tales of Cloth) announced a block of the month program she would be hosting for 2017, called the Ice Cream Soda Quilt. Jodi and her family run a business, laser cutting paper pieces for English paper piecing (EPP), so the Ice Cream Soda Quilt is a cleverly designed EPP project. Until last year, I never really enjoyed EPP all that much, but having started this project (and another EPP project I'll share soon) I can gladly say I'm a bit obsessed. 

So each month, I receive a packet of paper pieces with all the shapes necessary to make these lovely little blocks. When I signed up, I initially thought I'd use my scrap baskets to make this quilt - but the lure of fussy cutting was just too strong, and I'm having a huge amount of fun choosing fabrics and fussy cutting as much as I can for these blocks. I'm sharing my first month's blocks today (eight blossoms), and as you can see there's a very strong animal theme happening. 

I'm having lots of fun using some very long hoarded and special fabrics - Heather Ross, Lizzy House and Cotton and Steel are all making frequent appearances so far, along with Aneela Hoey, Laurie Wisbrun and a few others who design fabrics that are just perfect for fussy cutting.

The other thing I wanted to mention is a new love affair with a new thread - Aurifil 80wt. I bought a few spools (2021, 2600 and 1246 - white, dove and dark grey) and so far they have been perfect for all the colour combinations I've used. I seriously can't get over how invisible my stitches are. I've used 50wt a lot for EPP in the past, and it is lovely thread to use, but 80wt is a total game changer.

I'm planning on doing a monthly update of where I'm at with these blocks - so I'll share them in groups of 8 here on the blog. I'm also going to put together a few English Paper Piecing tutorials when I get a chance - I'd like to share my fussy cutting technique and some tips and tricks I use for getting perfect points. If there's any other aspects of EPP you'd like me to talk about, please let me know and I'll be sure to include it in my tutorials!

xx Jess

Finish A Long 2017 - Quarter 2 Proposed Finishes Link Up

It's time to link up your list of unfinished projects that you propose to finish in Q2 of the FAL. I truly hope you are facing a new quarter with a brand new list - because you finished so many UFOs in Q1!
The FAL is hosted by a community of bloggers across the world. Our hosts are:
  • Sarah - Sew me - Northern Ireland
Social Media Director
For those of you who are new to the FAL, it is a place to find motivation and encouragement to complete those unfinished projects that are hanging about becoming UFOs. Every quarter you post a list of projects you hope to finish in the next three months, and then at the end of the quarter, you post a link from your blog, Flickr or Instagram of each successful finish from your original list. Each finish is an entry for wonderful prizes from our sponsors. There is no penalty for not finishing a listed project, so feel free to make your list long or short, as you wish. The 2017 Schedule and Rules for the FAL are on my permanent FAL page, let me know if you have any questions. Here are the fantastic and generous sponsors for Q2 of the FAL - you can see each of their prizes listed under their logo (think about visiting them and saying thank you):  
As you may recall from last year, there was a return of tutorial week at the end of each quarter, between the opening of the link for finishes and the day that link closes. This will take place each quarter. Each host works hard to put these together so I hope you are visiting their blogs to encourage them. If you have a tutorial that you would like to share, please let me or another host know.

 It's time to round up those projects you want to finish over the next three months, take a photo of each one and make your list. Please ensure that you have at least started your projects - pulled fabric with a pattern is now considered a UFO, and remember it is only finished projects that will get you an entry toward the above listed prizes. So while we love to see your bee blocks, the "finish" is when they are a completed, usable project. It is very helpful if you tag your list as #2017FALQ2yourname when posting on social media: Flickr, Facebook & Instagram. Using the same hashtag over the quarter when sharing progress or finishes before the link, helps the hosts find your original list quickly - especially when this is done over a 3 month period. IMPORTANT: Don't forget to link your finishes up when the quarter closes.

The 2017 Q2 link for your list of proposed finishes is now open below on my blog and on each of the hosting blogs. You need only link your list once, on one blog - and that link will show up on all of the blogs.

If you are using Facebook, Flickr or Instagram, link a mosaic and put your list in the description. Katy of The Littlest Thistle has a great tutorial on how to link-up if you need it. We also ask that you become part of the FAL community. Please check out the links of others - visit and comment on their lists. We all need encouragement to get those finishes done, so please share some of your own too. When creating your list there is one thing to remember....No deductions for not completing something so ..... Aim High! Nothing to lose!!!

So, get those lists together and get linked up. The Q2 proposed finish linky party will stay open until 11 pm EST, April 8, 2017- as we are global, you might want to check your time zone to determine your last possible time to link. Remember: you only need to link up on ONE hosting blog and it will automatically show up on all hosting blogs.

An InLinkz Link-up

I'll be back in a few days with my Quarter 2 list, once I decide which projects I want to try to get finished this quarter. I reorganised my sewing room this week and uncovered a whole bunch of unfinished projects I'd like to finish this quarter - I'm hoping the FAL will be the motivation I need to get them done!!

xx Jess