Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Worn Out

Much of today was spent putting together more Colour Rhapsody fabric sets. It appears that I have done so much ironing that I have worn a hole in my ironing board cover. Time to order a new one from Interface Australia who have quality products and an admirable community spirit as the employ rural men and women with disabilities.

I have also just finished facing "Unplugged". Come back for better photos tomorrow:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Quilted Treasures

At last I have finished quilting Seaside Treasures (well apart from a few sections of the spade). You will see that I have combined free motion quilting and hand quilting with perle thread:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Paua Bag Finished

For those of you who admired my paua-inspired foundation piecing, here it it is made up into a tote bag. Side one:

And the other side:

Adhering to my resolution NOT to buy more fabric for these bags, I used some synthetic lilac fabric that was lurking in my stash (from my experimentation with fabric crayons that do not work on 100% cottons) for the lining. After sewing with cottons so long, working with the synthetic fabric was truly horrible. Never again.

On the subject of man-made fibres, Jacqueline's collection of acrylic knitted tea cosies brought a smile to my face. The owl is especially quirky.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New Zealand Quilting Symposium

This week Alison Schwabe and I had an on and off- blog conversation about improvisational curved piecing. Although Alison lives in Uruguay, through her blog I feel like I know her. It helps too that I attended a slide presentation that she made at the Quilting Symposium in Christchurch, New Zealand 2003.

The symposium was very influential on on my quilting development. In addition to five consecutive days of workshops, I attended every lecture and exhibition that was available including inspirational talks by Alison, Rosalie Dace, Dottie Moore, Charlotte Yde and Judy Dales. There were also the obligatory trips to the marketplace. I still have these Melody Johnson classics:

I wasn't familiar with Mrs Mel or her blog but I know better now! The next National Quilt Symposium will be in Palmerston North in early 2007. I won't be able to make it but I'm sure everyone who attends will have a wonderful time.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Preparing for the Big Trip

OK, I'm back in blog land. My online tax return has been duly completed, triple-checked and dispatched and new personal/business accounting systems have been set up to streamline the process for future years. All part of the transition from my corporate lawyering life.

Next week I am off to Canberra to give a presentation to Canberra Quilters and to do some teaching. Whereas previous trips to the national capital have been dominated by business meetings with lawyers, lobbyists and bureaucrats, this time my focus will be on galleries and quilt shops. I am looking forward to checking out The Crafted Object exhibition at the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery generally.

Of course, first of all I have to get to Canberra. I'll be undertaking the 4+ hour drive by myself which means I get to choose the driving music. While Shelina chose loud Japanese music for her road trip to Fort Collins Colorado, I favour 80s pub rock. Just have to remember to keep my eye on the speedo...

But before I even get into the car, I have to make sure that I have all my quilts, my speaking notes and my teaching materials. A great deal of advance preparation is required for teaching. I can understand how this is offputting for some people but so far I am enjoying all aspects of teaching. If you are considering teaching, then you may be interested in Robin's recent musings - To Teach or Not to Teach - that is the question.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Designing with Electric Quilt

Despite my best intentions, I didn't get far with finalising my tax return yesterday. Instead, I got distracted with miscellaneous guild business and resizing quilt images in Photoshop so that they have 300 dpi resolution suitable for publication in the next issue of the guild magazine, The Template. I enjoy getting to grips with technology but some applications are so powerful I know I am only scratching the surface. It is instructive to be confronted with a specific task that requires you to learn more about particular aspect of a product. Reading manuals is all very well but there is no substitute for hands-on practice.

I have pre-ordered the upgrade to Electric Quilt 6 and look forward to familiarising myself with its new features and functionality. Although I don't use EQ5 for every quilt I make, I do find it is a useful planning tool particularly when I am making a quilt for someone else and want to convey in advance what is whirling around in my mind. For example, when I sent out "confetti" circles for people to sign for my sister Amy's wedding quilt, I included this concept design for their information:

Having a concept design did not preclude the serendipity factor coming into play. Here is the resulting Confetti Wedding Quilt, the border being inspired by a text message sent by my brother who could not attend the wedding:

Similarly, when I decided to make an green and purple quilt for a new baby in the family, I started out with this concept design:

Along the way, I decided to go for a more scrappy look and Apple & Lilac came into being:

Back to playing with my receipts and dockets...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another Groovy Bag

This will be another lite post as I finalise my tax return. Not that it's difficult but I am trying to be scrupulous about distinguishing between my personal and business expenses - it's moments like these that I regret the shopping that accompanies my quilting habit, one receipt seems to look like any other.

In the meantime, check out this groovy bag and other bag designs from Envirosax:

Better than your average "green" bag.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stack, Slash, Sew & Turn

As I plod along with some boring but necessary bookkeeping (I must also do my tax return), I thought I would share this sequence of photos for the samples that I made for my demonstration at the guild meeting last Saturday.
  • Make a stack of four fabric squares (mine were 15 1/2") right side up and make 6 freeform cuts.
  • Swap the cut strips around to make a pleasing arrangement.
  • Sew to make four new fabric squares

  • Stack the new fabric squares on top of each other
  • Make six cuts through all layers
  • Peel off strips to make a pleasing arrangement

  • Sew seams to make four new fragmented fabric squares.
  • Play with possibilities and don't go cross-eyed

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ever feel like screaming?

The winners of the Guild's Going to Pieces challenge both captured that "aaarrgghh" moment.
This is a detail shot of "Going to Pieces" by Tanya Coxsedge:

And this is "Screaming to Pieces" by Helen Godden:

Check out the guild's website for a gallery of all 41 challenge entries. The quilts each measure 50cm x 70cm or 70cm x 50cm.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Purple Haze

Driving through Sydney today on my way to the guild annual general meeting, I could not help but notice all the jacaranda trees that have come into bloom.

I understand that for Australian students, the purple haze of jacaranda flowers is synonymous with exam time but (having grown up in New Zealand) I have no such unpleasant associations. I love the patches of purple throughout urban Australia at this time of year. Indeed, jacarandas are central to my first assessment piece I completed for my online City & Guilds course with Linda Kemshall. Here is Sydney Jacaranda Harbour:

And a close up shot of the jacaranda-inspired quilting motif:

Friday, October 20, 2006

Mini Marvels

Belatedly, I have updated the guild's website to showcase the Mini Marvel challenge quilts from earlier this year. It's not a big selection but there is an interesting mix of styles and all quilts are 12 inches square or smaller including my earthwaterfire triptych:

If you enjoy working on this scale and you are a member of The Quilters Guild of NSW Inc, then I draw your attention to the calendar quilt challenge. To celebrate the guild's 25th anniversary in 2007, guild members are invited to make a small quilt, 12 inches square to be judged for
inclusion in a calendar for 2008. Any subject and any techniques will be welcome. Send your masterpiece to the Guild office by 30 November 2006. Quilts will be on display at the 25th Sydney Quilt Show in June 2007 and the calendars for 2008 will be on sale. The quilts may then
become another suitcase exhibition available to groups. Here is a copy of the calendar quilt entry form in pdf format.

Queensland Quilt Show

Tomorrow is the annual general meeting of The Quilters' Guild of NSW and yours truly will be in attendance. In addition to putting myself forward as the candidate for Exhibition Secretary for a third and final year, I am doing a demonstration before the meeting. It's not required, but I have been working on some samples to make my demonstration more interesting. I'll post photos later on but don't want to spoil the surprise for the handful of guild members that I know read my blog.

In the meantime, you may be interested to see the prize winners from the Queensland Quilt Show which is currently on exhibition.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Coming to the end

I have almost finished quilting the new, as-yet unnamed, Christmas quilt. You will see that I opted for contour quilting about half an inch apart with a metallic gold thread. I quite like the effect although it is a little more "regular" than my usual quilting.

I am also using this quilt to experiment with a one of the facing techniques sent to me when I put out a query on how to finish a quilt without binding.

Actually, this is a variation of a technique sent to me by Kathy Loomis who has written an article for a forthcoming issue of Quilters Newsletter Magazine. In Kathy's words:

Many times I think my quilts look better without a border or binding – just turned to the back with the quilting stitches running right off the edge and around the fold. You achieve this finish by stitching on a straight binding strip that folds over, encases the raw edge of the quilt and is sewed down by hand. Traditionally you bind the top and bottom first, then bind the sides, tucking in the ends of the vertical binding strips as neatly as possibly.

But I don’t like the lumpy corners that resulted from this method, even when I graded the edges carefully. And if the binding strip wasn’t the same color as the corner of the quilt, you could frequently see a bit of the binding on the corners because there was just too much fabric to bring it all invisibly to the back.

I thought there must be a better way - and developed a method that makes beautifully flat edges and corners, plus a neat looking back. The trick is to make a one-piece facing for the corners instead of binding each edge separately.

You can e-mail Kathy for a copy of her very clear instructions. (My variation is fold the side strips in half and to sew the corners in pairs and turn them inside out for a clean edge that doesn't need to be folded under.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In a different light

Today's assignment demonstrates that I have lots to learn about quilt photography and, in particular, lighting. Taking raw shots of my Autumn Splendour quilt as an example, you will see that I photographed each quilt under four conditions (clockwise): flash, no-flash, under lights and flash with lights. In virtually every case, the no-flash photo turned out best.

The "Going to Pieces" guild challenge quilts are a fantastic showcase of the talent within the guild and I look forward to sharing photos of the other forty quilts later in the week.

Lost & found update: I found my missing teaching aids. They were in the drawer where I thought I had placed them, only they had slipped down the back. Very sneaky.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A different kind of Christmas Quilt

Like many of my recent quilting efforts, when I started this quilt I had something different in mind but the quilt seems to have a mind of its own. Who am I to argue?

Of course, it means that I have yet another quilt top that requires quilting. I think I have to schedule some dedicated quilting time. I almost finished quilting Seaside Treasures yesterday but ran out of turquoise thread at a critical moment. No prizes for guessing what has been added to my shopping list when I go into the city tomorrow. If you enjoy threads, check out Lisa Call's collection.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

On Tidying Up

It's moments like this that I vow that I am never going to tidy up my studio again. In my last cleaning frenzy, I obviously put some of my teaching aids in a "safe" place where they will not be crushed or buckled. Do you think I can find them? Nope. And that's despite turning the place upside down looking. Hmmph.

By the way, I have updated my blog banner tutorial to include some tips on resizing your image so that it fits your particular template. You may have noticed that I have also changed the fonts used on my blog so that they match my Serendipity website.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My New Quilting Buddies

Today was unseasonably warm. Accordingly, after my morning swim and breakfast, I left David to his tan and headed for the air-conditioned comfort of the local mall. Apart from needing to restock the pantry, I was on a mission to replace my ailing iron and to buy a tripod for my digital camera. Here are my new quilting buddies:

An iron is an essential quilting tool yet, as noted on Lisa Call's blog, finding an iron that can withstand the rigours of quiltmaking can be a challenge. My trusty iron never quite recovered from being knocked onto the floor earlier in the week. Then, to add insult to injury, I had managed to encrust the super teflon surface with some gunk from the pellon that I am using for the bags that I am making. Fortunately one of the department stores is having a mid-season sale and I was able to get the same make and model which has served me well (apart from the pesky beeping noise that accompanies the auto-off function).

The tripod is something that has been on my Christmas list for a while but the purchase was accelerated due to an impending photography assignment. In the absence of any other volunteers coming forward, I have agreed to photograph the forty odd "Going to Pieces" guild challenge quilts on Tuesday. Not that I purport to be an expert photographer. I will be re-reading the photography guide for textile artists generously compiled by Holly Knott and Any Baird.

You will be able to give me a scorecard (be gentle!) as I plan on posting images of some or all of the quilts on the guild website for which I am defacto webmaster. There are some fabulous quilts so I will post the link in due course.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Bag Lady

I am slowly making my way through the spectrum of my batik scraps. Today's combination draws its inspiration from the paua (abalone) shell from New Zealand:

Paua is also the inspiration for a fabric range put out by New Zealand textile house Nutex.

As I mentioned to Helen foundation piecing in this way is NOT a speedy process. First you have to join all your scraps together. Then you make the strips. Then you audition them on your foundation; sew them; flip them and iron them before starting the process all over again. But I am having such fun with the colour play.

Which is more than I can say about my ongoing Blockbutler dramas. I regret to report that my 3 x 3 foot replacement blockbutler design wall (a kind of sticky, expensive pellon) simply will not stay up on the wall. My main design wall is a 6 x 6 foot blockbutler which has served me very well so the problems I have experienced with its smaller sibling are disappointing and tedious. At this rate, I can forsee that the replacement blockbutler will end up as wadding for some more bags or something similar.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

One down...

One Christmas present is completed. I'm very happy with how this bag turned out:

The finished (flat bottomed) bag is approximately 15 inches wide and 12 inches high. I want one for me now!

This bag will double as a teaching sample for my forthcoming Sweet Bagatelle half day workshops in Canberra on Saturday, 4 November 2007. I understand that there are some vacancies left in these classes so feel free to contact me if you are interested in signing up.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Music to Quilt By

Thanks to my sister Amy, I have just found a great source of music to quilt by. Plug a favourite song or artist into Pandora and it will create a whole station of similar music for you.

It's in the Bag!

New Zealanders of a certain age will recall the radio and TV game show "It's in the Bag!" featuring the avuncular Selwyn Toogood as the host as he toured school halls around the country. However, the title of this post refers to the proposed use of this foundation piecing:

I'm planning to make many of my Christmas gifts this year and this quilted piece is destined to be made into a bag for my mother-in-law's best friend Jeanne. As you will see from recent posts, I am enjoying the colour play that arises when you join scrap strips together. I have a vast collection of batik scraps and am pleased to see them being put to good use.

Incidentally, I haven't abandoned "Maverick" entirely but I have decided against trying to complete it for a forthcoming show as I don't think it is innovative or edgy enough for the particular exhibition and I have enough other projects on my plate without forcing completion by the relevant deadline. I'm minding my Ps and Qs - pacing, priorities, quilting and quilts. ..

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Wonder of Google

In the past month I have re-established contact with two dear friends thanks to the search power of Google. Admittedly both friends have reasonably unusual names and interests but tracking them down was so easy. As Josh, an exchange student buddy from 1983 said:
There should be some sort of ad (though redundant) along the lines of "Google: Bringing the World back together" ...
Even better, the other friend from university days in New Zealand turns out to live just up the road at Newcastle so we plan to get together in person soon. That friend is due to become a father for the first time in mid-2007 so I can feel another baby quilt coming on. But today is the day for baking Christmas cakes so excuse me as I head off to the kitchen.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Getting in a festive mood

It's starting to feel like Christmas here at Casa da Praia. Yes, I know 25 December is still many weeks away but we have been wrapping and posting gifts for surface mail to America. As I write, the mixed fruit is soaking in brandy for the Christmas cake and I have sorted out some fabrics for a Christmas quilt:

However, rest assured, there are no Christmas carols playing on my CD player.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Time to Take a Bow

Between our time in the city and attending to some guild Exhibition Secretary business, I haven't done any sewing this weekend. However, while I was on the train travelling home, I had time to read the current issue of Quilters Companion:

This Collector's Edition showcases ten great Australian quilts and I especially enjoyed the three page profile of contemporary quiltmaker Sue Dennis whose quilts often have a geological theme. I was also delighted to read the editorial in which Clare Mooney remarked upon her experience at judging day at this year's Sydney Quilt Show:
“It was wonderful to see such a flurry of activity as quilts were laid out, sorted through, slowly eliminated, held up and finally, placings selected. The committee had the day extremely well organised with all quilts labelled and sorted before reaching the venue for judging. A schedule had then been made to ensure that the day ran smoothly and excessive time was not spent on one category at the expense of another.Being able to see the behind the scenes work involved in putting on a quilt show make you realise how fortunate we are as a quilting community to have so many volunteers to coordinate quilts shows for our viewing pleasure.It is only thanks to those hundreds of dedicated quilting volunteers at our major guilds…that shows, exhibitions and events continue to be held for the enjoyment of all quilters.”
It is gratifying to have the guild committee's hard work so publicly recognised so I think I will take a bow.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I don't what possessed me to embark upon an applique project. It's not a technique that I particularly enjoy and, more often than not, I find there is a gaping hole between my artistic conception and final execution. Last night I was ready to abandon "Maverick" for more fulfilling endeavours. This morning I am thinking it might have a reprieve although a reprieve means making many more red tulips:

Now is not the time for such decisions. Today David and I are off to the city to do some Christmas shopping (surface mail to the US closes on 13 October) and to meet some friends for dinner. Dining out is a rare treat these days (the Central Coast has many virtues but fine dining is not one of them) and I'm looking forward to sharing travel tales.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Behind the Scenes

Today I was fortunate enough to participate in a behind-the-scenes tour at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney with a focus on some quilts from the textile collection. You can view images of many quilts on the museum's website but my favourite was this graphic red and white applique quilt.

It's a Miracle

There are a few assertive consumer stories floating around on the Artful Quilters Web Ring at the moment. For example: read all about Diane's new car purchase or Kim's sad tale of the lost camera. My own example relates to my 3 x 3 foot Blockbutler design wall which, after I took it to a workshop in March, steadfastly refused to re-adhere to a wall where it had been happily living for 12 months or so. This was the source of some considerable frustration and disappointment especially in the light of the company's claims that "lightwieght, re-positionable, reusable, portable and hand washable, each Blockbutler will give you years of use."

To their credit, the company provided me with a replacement design wall (and did not insist that I send back the older one) which behaved itself for precisely 23 hours and thirty three minutes before embarking upon a pattern of more sporadic adhesion. Grrr. However, it seems to have turned the corner. My replacement design wall has managed to stay up for a whole 48 hours, albeit peeling at the corners. I'm off to the city today for a guild committee meeting and hope it is still hanging on my return...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


This morning I was rummaging through my pantyhose drawer (a very rare occurrence) and look what I found tucked in the corner:

Immediately I was transported back to November 1997 Barcelona where I found these pieces of glass that had been smoothed by constant grinding with the pebble beach. I wasn't able to persuade any of my jewellery-making friends to make anything with these beauties but I live in hope! What souvenirs have you kept from your travels?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Into the blues

I decided to make another background for my applique project. This one includes more green blues and is a little flatter:

Monday, October 02, 2006

Knowing when to stop

Well my "background" is completed, pillowcased and escape hatched. It's all ready now for the applique. Except I'm not sure that I want to go that far.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Colour & Chaos

Here in Australia it is Labour Weekend which means that surf patrols have started on beaches all over the country. Surf life saving clubs are integral to Australian beach culture and safety.

At our beach, we have the Copacabana SLSC at the northern end and the MacMasters SLSC at the southern end. Flags and lifesavers caps (not to mention lashings of lycra) make for a riot of colour particularly when clubs get together for surf carnivals. Consequently, this early quilt of mine is called Copacabana Carnivale:

Unfortunately, I started quilting this quilt at a time when I was less confident with free motion quilting. Instead, I secured the layers with some diagonal stitching and selected an arc motif using the walking foot. Even though I decided that only the outside two rows would have the arcs - that is still fifty blocks. I ran out of steam at block No 8 and the quilt has languished in the cupboard ever since. I can't bear to unpick what I have done but nor do I want to continue in this mode.

My current thoughts are to combine the quilting that I have done with something more freeform...