Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sunset Garden Recap

Thank you for the wonderful feedback so many of you have given on my Wholehearted quilt finish shared a couple of days ago which was made entirely of organic hemp/cottons and organic cottons by Umbrella Prints. I do enjoy creating a wide variety of quilt styles.    :)

Today I'm sharing an abridged version of the story of my Sunset Garden quilt for the Blogger's Quilt Festival, entering in the Large Quilt's section. If you are looking for quilt inspiration this biannual online Festival is a great place to start with hundreds of quilts amongst the 11 categories.

You can find the full story of Sunset Garden in this post from last month, written when it was just completed. 

My primary inspiration was this quilt by Blue Elephant Stitches which took my eye quite some time ago. However I liked the idea of using all solid backgrounds and larger blocks. I set to work fiddling with size and construction ideas based on Blue Elephant Stitches' similar 'liberated stars' quilt here. I planned the sizing and cutting layouts to require only a fat quarter of each solid and a fabric piece 10" x 17 1/2" for each print/star fabric (you could cut  two 'stars' from a printed fat quarter). This allows for generous seams too.

My stars are neither 'wonky' nor precise sawtooth stars. I chose to enjoy the journey and eyeball much of my sewing, calling them 'relaxed' stars, while making sure all centre point 'V's' were complete, not clipped off, and ensuring a good margin of solid all the way around the star points for easy seams and later hand quilting. 

Using heavy 12wt cotton thread I machine quilted along the seam lines of each block to secure the quilt well. At this point I trimmed and added the binding.

Then began my favourite part - hand quilting in contrasting silk threads! A perfect winter slow sewing activity.

 The quilt after washing, line drying and finishing on low in the dryer to help soften and smooth the delicious crinkles.

My youngest three children volunteered to hold the quilt for me, for it is quite large. Each finished block is about 14 1/2" square with the complete quilt measuring 58" x 73" (147cm x 185cm).

I had wondered whether to keep this quilt or offer it for sale in my Etsy shop. It was my husband who voted that we keep it, even he likes the saturated colours! So keep it we did! It is currently in use on our bed on top of Sunlit Treasure, our full size queen quilt, to give extra warmth on our cooler spring nights.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Wholehearted Quilt

I have a new favourite quilt! Every fabric used in my Wholehearted quilt is designed by Umbrella Prints, a small Australian textile house which specialises in GOTS certified organic printed fabrics. You may be familiar with Umbrella Prints from their annual Trimmings Competition.

The initial inspiration for this quilt was Shelby's Quarter Squared quilt. However instead of creating pattern from piecing solids I wanted to achieve a variety of effects using a small number of versatile prints. The eye-catching 'Grand Hearts in Smokey Black' by Umbrella Prints seemed a good choice as a focal point. This fabric has been carefully cut and used in four different ways - as the central motif, a thin inner border, a wide strip of chocolate-drop shapes along top and bottom and also for a narrow binding.

Of the seven different fabrics used, two are regular quilting weight (Fanflower on Clay, Brush Strokes on Olive Gold) while the other five have been screen printed by hand in Australia onto a heavier weight organic base fabric of 55% hemp/45% cotton (230 gsm). These hemp/cotton fabrics have a sturdy thick/compact texture with a low tendency to fray. They are also quite soft to the hand and iron well. The Perfect Circles floral above has a slightly rougher/looser texture than all the other hemp/cottons.

Using thicker 12wt threads for all the piecing adds durability to this quilt of mixed fabric weights.

Machine quilting along each seam (in the ditch) holds everything firmly in place. Again I used colour matched 12wt threads, paired with a regular cotton thread in the bobbin for minimal visibility on the back. 

Then the pleasure of hand quilting began. The central heart was quilted using two strands of each DMC 924 and 930 mixed together. All other quilting was done using DMC's strong Cebelia 30 which is often used for crochet. Much of the quilt is simple straight line quilted, accentuating the classic Courthouse Steps design. Other sections are quilted following the lines of the printing to highlight individual fabrics. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to hand quilt the thicker hemp/cotton fabrics. The texture which hand quilting produces is wonderful to the eye and the hand.

Grand Hearts in Smokey Black was my first choice for binding but I had reservations about binding in this heavier weight fabric - would it give a finish which was too stiff? Then I had the idea of using single fold binding instead of the usual double fold! It worked perfectly giving the thin line edge I was after, firm enough to support the edge yet soft enough to still drape nicely. 

I find the screen prints quite fascinating to look at. The colour of the Smokey Black Grand Hearts can appear black, green, indigo or blue according to the light and angle. The white print of the Perfect Circles floral can blend in, being almost invisible, or stand out as if glowing, depending on how the light hits it. 

It took the longest time to decide how to quilt these grand heart/drops. The expanse of screen printed ink makes the fabric a little stiff and I didn't want to spoilt the luscious puffiness of smokey black. I chose to hand quilt around the outside of the heart/drops in the Cecelia, however as my organic batting has no scrim, a little more quilting was needed to hold it securely. In the end I have decided to blind quilt each one (is that such a thing) using doubled regular cotton thread to echo quilt from the back, stitching through the backing and batting only, not penetrating the front/top at all.

So that's the story of Wholehearted. There is so much about this very Australian quilt which I treasure and I have thoroughly enjoyed creating it from start to finish - definitely a keeper!

Sharing at Amy's Creative Side Blogger's Quilt Festival:
Small Quilt section (Finished size 54" x 56")
Just completed, it's been my creative focus for the last four weeks.


Friday, September 16, 2016

September Spring

How I love September and the beginning of spring. Admittedly we do have a very mild winter by most standards, yet spring is still greeting with joy. September also marks the beginning of our run of family birthdays. I baked a pavlova for Master T's 17th birthday 'cake'. I find it most rewarding and interesting to watch as our children grow into adulthood.

Miss O's interest in gardening is reaping rewards everyday, both in beauty and the edible kinds - dwarf Chrysanthemum Whites, dwarf sweet peas, herbs, snow peas and much more. The Leucospermum from my birthday last November is doing well and developing a number of buds.

We had the pleasure of watching a couple of magnificent Crested Hawks/Pacific Bazas briefly exploring the tops of tall trees in our yard and neighbouring yards this week. They made an appearance two years ago too. It would be a treat if they chose to nest nearby.

A highlight of each day is time spent working on my current quilt, the details of which I hope to share next week.

Baking Notes: Pavlova is quite easy to make. Chrissie from The Busy Baker has as great recipe with lots of helpful tips here. I used one and a half times the quantities given to make a larger pavlova. I needed a slower oven than recommended, maybe our oven just cooks a bit hot.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Fresh Beginnings

Each day, each season is filled with the possibility of new beginnings, fresh starts and seeing things from a different perspective. And for this I am forever grateful.

As we gently enter spring, gardening continues to be a delight to Miss O, and in turn, all of us. Familiar and new flowers proclaim endless glory day upon day, quietly mixed amongst the edible herbs and a sprinkling of vegetables. 

Miss E has already had the first swim of the season - a very quick one followed by a hot shower to warm up! The rest of us were content to watch and photograph the 'occasion'! There have been no repeat requests just yet!

A new quilt is filling my spare moments, making the most of the mild weather to enjoy adding love to this one with some hand quilting. All the fabrics are by Umbrella Prints, a small Australian textile house specialising in organic printed fabrics. Combining printed organic cotton and heavier weight hand printed (in Australia) organic hemp/cottons provides a wonderful variety of textures and effects.

Botanical Notes: African daisies (this one is a terracotta shade)- wonderfully hardy and flowering year after year.
Photinia - all the dainty white flowers and buds are from our Photinia bushes, most commonly known for their fast growth and striking red new foliage.
Linaria - reminiscent of miniature snap dragons, very small and delicate. Mauve is shown here but they come in many colours. Planted from seed by Miss O.

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