Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tutorial - using stripes

It's New Year's Eve here, so what better time to start something new?  I don't celebrate New Year (as in  going to parties); for me, it's a time for reflection and renewal.

I bought four 1 metre lengths of Kaffe Fassett striped fabric recently in an "end of roll" sale.  I'm going to make a striped quilt which I'll document as a tutorial for those who are interested or perhaps, reluctant to try stripes.  As I need more than 4 metres, I'm using some cream homespun (on the left)  which I'll dye to match.  Why cream and not white?  Dyeing on a cream background will take the edge off the brigth colours so it'll be more in keeping with the striped fabric.

Here's the results, and the dyes I chose:

Mustard (left) and Golden Yellow at a medium strength.

Nutmeg (left) and Coral.
Lilac (left) and Sapphire Blue.

Teal (left) and Emerald at a medium strength.

I've used some of the colours at medium strength because it adds more contrast.  Now I'm off to start cutting.  Watch this space for updates.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Almost time to say goodbye... 2011.  It's been a year of highs and lows, as I guess all years are, but the Christchurch earthquakes made the lows pretty big.  This was my first visit to my daughter and her partner's new home in Bryndwyr, Christchurch, which fortunately was an area not badly damaged by the quakes.  I was hoping there would be none while I was there, but unfortunately, this wasn't the case.  The day following, we had a 5.8 magnitude followed by a 6.0, plus a multitude of smaller shocks.  Really we could have done without that.  However, the house stood up well.

As my son Cass was also there for a few days and would be bored with nothing to do (family trait), he offered to do a project for Sophie and Mark.  They wanted a deck, so Cass designed this (he is a structural engineer/architect) and started work.  By the time I arrived on Thursday afternoon, the old timber decking that had been on top of the concrete had been removed, and post holes had been dug.

 Sophie was a willing helper.  Mark also helped, as did a few friends from time to time.  Actually, any visiting male wanted to join in.  I didn't help, I merely documented the whole process so Sophie and Mark could look back on how it came together and what it looked like before - because you forget.
 Here's Cass surveying the work so far.  The framework went up quickly - this photo was taken Friday evening.  Work didn't stop for the quakes. Laying the kwila decking was the slow part, and took all Saturday (Christmas Eve) and Sunday morning.
 By 2pm on Christmas Day, this is how it looked - the raised seating along the outer 2 sides was a great idea.  The steps will have to come later.  The deck is 35 square metres (377 square feet), so quite a substantial size - 1/3 of the size of my whole house.
Of course, the kids didn't work the whole time.  There was quite a bit of this as well.  This is the dessert table at Mark's extended family Christmas dinner.

All in all, I had  a lovely time despite the earthquakes.  It was an 8 hour drive each way, but the weather was good and the traffic light.

Best wishes for a happy and creative New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

 It turned out that I needed to make some last minute Christmas gifts.  I made these Fat Quarter Aprons for the women.......
...and for the men, Fabric Boxes which I'll fill with homemade sweets and treats.
While my Christmas lilies haven't bloomed yet, I have a Christmas cactus (Zygocactus) that has just opened.

Tomorrow I'm off to stay with my daughter Sophie and her boyfriend Mark in Christchurch, about 8 hours' drive away.  Fortunately, we're having beautiful summer weather so it should be a good trip.  Merry Christmas to all my readers, and best wishes for a safe and happy New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2011


One of the traditions of Kiwiquilters, the email group for NZ quilters that I set up in 1999, is to call for hearts from members when a KQ or someone in their family or one of their close friends has suffered serious illness or loss.  Making a heart or 2 is no big task, and somebody collects the individual hearts (made to a standard 6.5 inch size, normally on a cream background) and makes the quilt.  It's a wonderful expression of caring that I know is really appreciated by the recipient.  Two of our members are in this position at present, so I made hearts over the weekend.  I found a ...I don't know just what to call comprised a number of small squares sewn together to make a rectangle.  The squares were all hand dyed and stamped, all in different colours.  Anyway, I've never found a use for this so I chopped it up for hearts.
 Her's the first pair....
 ..and the second pair.  They are hand stitched with blanket stitch around the outside.
I'm not sure about these 2, so I might keep them.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Yes, it's suddenly become summer here in Southland.  For the past 2 weeks, we've had virtually no rain (most unusual!) and temperatures often in the 20s (that's Celsius).  Today, for example, it's already 14 outside and the expected high is 25.  However, the tropical weather won't last and it will be raining by midweek.  However, the sunshine has lifted spirits and made me feel like I'm on holiday - which I am, even though I've been doing some part time work.  As soon as that runs out, which will be soon, I have lots of creative ideas that I want to pursue.

 I went to Riverton recently (the Riviera of the South), and took some macros at the beach.  This is my favourite.
 At home, I took macros of the flowers.  This is a Rhodohypoxis, a dwarf rock garden plant.
 This lavender flower and the purple one below are Lobelia.

This is a poppy - always one of my favourite flowers.

And this was how my tunnel house looked after 5 weeks - the other side hasn't been completed yet.  Already the plants have grown noticeably bigger (2 weeks have passed since I took the photo) and the lettuces are ready to eat.  I've had to jiggle my tomato flowers to pollinate them so I hope that works.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Tutorial - Rag Quilt #2

I decided to make a quilt for a friend of mine whom I felt deserved something nice. This one is quite different from the green/purple rag quilt -

  • I decided on the size of the squares and the quilt in advance, instead of leaving it to chance
  • Only the outer edge is ragged.  The inner seams are sewn in the traditional way
  • There are only 12 large squares instead of many small ones
  • It's much faster to make, as the middle and bottom layers are in one piece.
The principles are the same, however, and this is a brilliant quilt to make in a hurry.  You will need about 3 dozen medium-sized safety pins for this design, if you have carpet, or masking tape if you have hard floors - you are going to lay the quilt out on the floor to sandwich the layers together.

I started with an orphaned queen sized sheet, and a pair of men's pyjamas.  I measured and tore a 15" strip off the sheet, and tore that into  6 so I had 15" squares.  After removing all the seams, I also had enough pyjama fabric for 6 15" squares.  I tore the remaining sheet in two so it would be big enough to form the middle (batting/wadding) and back of the quilt. The whole quilt will be 42" by 56" (107cm by 142cm).  Click on the photos to enlarge them.

I chose red and grey as the quilt colours, being ones that my friend likes.  Using the previous instructions, I dyed the quilt squares Scarlet,  and one of the large pieces with Basic Red, while the the pyjama squares and the other large piece were dyed with Warm Black.
These were left overnight as before, then rinsed in cold water and washed in very hot water.  As soon as the fabric was dry, I started to sew.
The squares were put in rows of 3 with alternating colours.  They were sewn in the ordinary way with wrong sides together, using a large seam allowance of 2cm (3/4 inch).  Continue this for all 12 squares.
Then pin the rows together, alternating the colours.  Open the seams out and match them to ensure they'll line up.  You may find, as you can see above, that there are some differences in the size of your squares.  We're not cutting these exactly so this is to be expected - you can adjust the seams if needed.  The size difference can be caused by several things:-
  • irregularity when measuring before tearing
  • distortion caused by tearing, particularly in smaller pieces of fabric
  • possible shrinkage from the very hot wash, particularly if the fabric had only been cold washed previously.
When stitched together, your quilt top will look something like this.  It looks pretty unprepossessing at this stage!  
Now iron the top from the reverse side, ensuring all the seams are pressed open.  Iron the large pieces too.

Lay out on your floor whichever piece you have selected to be the reverse, ensuring that it is FACE DOWN to the floor, then hook  safety pins into the carpet to hold it flat (or tape the corners and edges if using a hard floor).  I had pins in the corners, one in the middle of the width and 2 along the sides of the longer piece.  This is just to ensure that your quilt doesn't have puckers in the back when it's sewn.
Put your middle layer (the batting/wadding) on top, face UP.  Hook the safety pins through it as well so it sits smoothly.
Place the top face UP as well, on top of the other layers.  Pin the 3 layers together with pins at every seam edge and another in the middle of each square.  You can see that my quilt edge is uneven - this is not a disaster.  We are not making a family heirloom here, or a gift for the queen - this is a gift of love that will be used.  This is the quilt that Nanna will pull over her knees when she has  a snooze with the cat, that will wrap around a sick or upset child, that Dad will grab when he's watching the Rugby or the Olympics in the middle of the night or a young mum might snuggle under when feeding the baby. In the end, it's going to look fine,  Trust me.

 Now we can start sewing - and the quilt will come together really quickly.  Use a suitable colour of thread - mine is grey top and bottom.  Using the sewing foot as a guide, sew along each seam on BOTH sides .  NOTE - Sew down in one direction, turn the quilt around and then sew back the other way.  This avoids distortion.
 This is what you'll end up with.  See why we ironed those big seams open?  They're now sewn flat.
 After you've done that, sew lines from one corner of each square to its opposite diagonal.  If you click on the photo above, you'll see that mine are wavy.  If you really want to, you can rule lines lightly and follow them, but there's no need for these lines to be perfectly straight - they are just keeping the 3 layers together and preventing the fabric from sagging.  And we don't want anything sagging, do we?
 The back should look something like this.  Now sew a seam all the way aaround your quilt, about 2 to 2.5 cm (3/4 inch to 1 inch) in from the edge.  If your underneath layer is a bit smaller than the top - which can happen - sew this seam from the BACK.

 Here you can a close-up of where my layers were slightly different sizes on the front.  You don't need to trim these!  Leave them as they are, unless there is a huge difference, in which trim them a bit to make them more even.
 Then clip all the outer edges closely as before - this is a much quicker job than for the quilt in the first tutorial.  Make sure you don't clip through that outer seam, though.

Throw the quilt into a hot wash, and then into the dryer to fluff up the edges.  Here's the end result - soft and warm and inviting!

PS - if you're making this for someone else, don't let them see the quilt as you go along.  It really doesn't look great until the very end, and they will not be very impressed so see it when only partly made.  

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Rag Quilt Tutorial part 3

Now we're getting closer, but there's still quite a bit of work to do yet.
 Take 2 squares, with different colours, and pin together as shown.  For a rag quilt, you are working the opposite of ordinary sewing - you will be stitching WRONG sides together, so that the seams stand up and are visible on the RIGHT side. Use a BIG seam - mine is 2 cm but you can make it as wide as 2.5cm (an inch).  There's a reason for this, as you'll see.
 The 2 squares sewn together look like this on the BACK.   Note the blue thread.

 Repeat, sewing the 48 sets of squares into pairs to make 24.  You can chain piece these, too. There is no need to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seams.
If you're having trouble envisaging the end result, here's a quick look at at a more complicated rag quilt.  This one is made from ordinary cottons, not flannel. This is "Home Is Where The Hearts Are".
 Here's a close-up of the seams.  The white bit you can see is cotton batting (or wadding).  I've dyed my middle layer, so there will be no white showing on this quilt.
 This is what the back looks like.  You can see that this is a far more structured design.  We are making something simpler and easier.
 Now...take 2 pairs of squares, and sew them together.  I've tried not to put the same colours together.
 You'll end up with 12 units that look like this (above).
 Sew 2 of these together to make 6 units, each of 8 squares.  Here mine are, laid out on the floor. I rearranged these to make the most pleasing layout.
 Now we're going to sew the rows together.  Match up the seams of each square with the one underneath, and open out the fabric so you're not sewing through too many layers.  Pin through all layers.  I've marked the 1st row with a pin in the bottom corner so I know which the first row is.
 Repeat until you've sewn all the rows together.  Your quilt will look something like this......but don't be disappointed, cos we're not finished yet.
 This is the reverse - I wasn't concerned about having colours butting up to one another.

 Now for the tiresome part of the quilt - using short-bladed scissors - mine are toenail scissors, but sharp embroidery scissors or snips are just as good - cut through all layers of all seams that are sticking up, avoiding cutting through the seams themselves.  Yes, it really IS tiresome, and grew a couple of blisters doing this.  You may want to do it over a day or so.
 Then put your quilt through a cool wash and a HOT dryer.  This design does need a dryer to work properly - use a friend's if you don't have one. (Make sure you clean all the fluff out afterwards, as there'll be lots of small threads in the lint tray)
 This is the end result!  Well worth waiting for, and the blisters will heal.  The cut edges fluff up beautifully, and it's way better looking than it was when you finished the sewing.
Close-up of the seams.

This is a lovely, warm quilt - mine is large enough to use as a lap quilt or tuck myself under if I feel like a snooze on a miserable day. These make great gifts and don't cost the earth.  Give one of these to someone you love, and I'll guarantee they'll be delighted.

Rag quilts are "potato chip" quilts - one is never enough, so now I'm planning another one for a friend.  This one will be red and grey, and done somewhat differently, with fringing only on the outer edges.  Watch this space for the tutorial.