Wednesday
Dec172014

mrs billings coverlet

As many of you who follow me on Instagram know, I've been working on a particular quilt since my birthday this year. As I turned the big three-oh, I wanted to do something BIG, a project to mark a new decade. I've been toying with making a Farmer's Wife quilt or a Dear Jane, but last Christmas I picked up a copy of Down Under Quilts that had a feature on the famous Mrs Billings Coverlet. I wasn't exactly spell-bound. It's a very BROWN quilt, and as much as I love all quilts and think they are all amazing works of art, this was not my jam.

(This photos is the original coverlet and it's NOT my picture.)

Anyway despite the brownness, it stuck in my head a bit. A few months later I was paging through the magazine deciding whether to keep or recycle it when I spotted it again. I sat down and reread the article and saw that Karen Styles (who is super nice in person by the way) of Somerset Patchwork had actually created a pattern for the Mrs Billings Coverlet!

My birthday was coming up, and I wanted a big project, right? But...I had no real plans to embark on a 94" square, mostly hand-pieced quilt. Ha. Hahaha. That would be freaking ridiculous, right? RIGHT?

By the time, the Sydney Craft & Quilt show was fast approaching, and I knew I would be there as I had two solo quilts showing (one of which won an award!) as well as a group quilt. I saw that Somerset Patchwork would have a booth. I didn't want to buy any pattern that expensive sight unseen. I'll think about it, I said.

Which meant I just need to see it first.

Anyway, I did buy the pattern. It is expensive, so be warned, it's not something to buy on a whim. I had to assure myself and my bemused but extremely supportive husband that, unlike 80% of the patterns I buy, I planned to actually *make* this quilt. I went ahead and splurged on the Paper Pieces starter pack. The pattern from Karen Styles comes with the acrylic templates and 1000 hexagon paper pieces to get you started. So the day before my birthday I cut out all the hexagons for the centre medallion and prepped them.

Prepping for tomorrow's start...those are 5/8" hexies & diamonds. I figure the start of a new decade is a reasonable time to start a bonkers quilt though eh? :) #jenndoesmrsbillingscoverlet

I sewed them on the train on my way to my birthday breakfast. I even finished the medallion that day!

Not bad for my first day being 30! #jenndoesmrsbillingscoverlet

Soon after, my paper pieces arrived in the post, and though daunting, I was ready to get started!

All the paper pieces!

Though I've done relatively little in the five months I've had the pattern, I'm not that worried. I recently went on a border-bender, where I chose and cut and assembled borders ready to be pieced. And I gave myself permission to sew it using the machine. (I had been planning on doing it all by hand.)

Okay swapped out the citrine for pink (top) or navy (right). And swapped out the tulip. It's funny how hung up I get on the strip borders! ๐Ÿ˜ณ #jenndoesmrsbillingscoverlet

The pattern is so far very comprehensive. Each step is fully explained and there are neat little tips in there too (like "cut extra, this shape shows up in another border"). I've only found one pattern error so far but it was a pretty annoying one - the background square upon which the medallion is appliqued is listed as being cut too small. Just use a FQ or something and trim it; trust me. Much easier.

I have been jumping around; I wanted to do some hexagons, and the next ones are a few borders past where I am. But I decided it was okay to skip around a little bit! How good do these cornerstones look? Mad props to Bec Skyberries who sent me that 10" square so I could use this fabric as background for these hexagon rosettes. (I was exactly 4 squares short.)

The corners are done! ๐Ÿ˜Š #jenndoesmrsbillingscoverlet

I should probably get onto the next border, the mint flowers, and just smash that out. I know I'd be happy to have it finished! But I am enjoying hexagons, so...maybe I'll get those basted and ready to go.

I'll try and keep posting about this regularly, under the "jenn does mrs billings coverlet" tag. I also have a Flickr album set up and you find it under the same tag in Instagram.

Do let me know if you're inspired to pick up the pattern, too! I'd love to have a partner in crime!

 

Thursday
Dec112014

Aviatrix Medallion - Fabric & Thread

Hi everyone!

Having finished the Aviatrix Medallion quilt top and rather hastily basted it, I was ready to quilt. I have had the vision for it for some time: I wanted to echo quilt most of it by hand, using perle cotton.

Now, for a quick refresher, in the Aviatrix Medallion pattern, there are 25 FQs (plus neutral and white bg yardage) required. Each of those, in my version and Elizabeth Hartman's original, is a different color or shade. (If you want to see something cool, you can check out her alternate colorway page. I am seriously considering that winter palette in print fabrics.)

Here are my colors. I stuck pretty close to her original palette.

Aviatrix Color Chart

Each of the fabrics is grouped according to a color family. I will list them all here, left to right. BE WARNED, I am not digging up all the proper names or item codes of these fabrics for this write up. If you're DESPERATE to know, I'll search it out for you, just let me know in the comments. :)

Violet Group

  • Feather, Field Study, Anna Maria Horner, Westminster/Free Spirit (2564)
  • Floral, Mustang, Melody Miller, Cotton + Steel (2515)
  • Calico, Briar Rose, Heather Ross, Windham (2540)
  • XOXO, Basics, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Cotton + Steel (2535)
  • Swimming Sisters, Mendocino, Heather Ross, Westminster/Free Spirit (4020)

Orange Group

  • Mice, Catnap, Lizzy House, Andover (2205)
  • Stars, 1001 Peeps, Lizzy House, Andover (2220)
  • Feather, Field Study, Anna Maria Horner, Westminster/Free Spirit (2277)
  • Dottie, Basics, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Cotton + Steel (2277)
  • Red Spot, Rainy Days & Mondays, Riley Blake Designs (1103)

Green Group

  • XOXO, Basics, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Cotton + Steel (2135)
  • Cats, Catnap, Lizzy House, Andover (1147)
  • Green Floral, Flea Market Fancy Reprint, Denyse Schmidt, Westminster/Free Spirit (5017)
  • Pearl Bracelet Tone on Tone, Lizzy House, Andover (2870)
  • Stars, 1001 Peeps, Lizzy House, Andover (2885)

Blue Group

  • Blomster, Mormor, Lotta Jansdotter, Windham (2864)
  • Diamonds, Lotus Pond, Made by Rae, Cloud 9 (2805)
  • Stems, Simply Color, V & Co, Moda (5006)
  • Circle Dot, Shape of Spring, Eloise Renouf, Cloud 9 (4182)
  • Stars, Constellations, Lizzy House, Andover (2783)

Grey Group (4670)

  • Kitestrings, Glimma, Lotta Jansdotter, Windham
  • Woodgrain, Les Amis, Patty Sloniger, Michael Miller Fabrics
  • XOXO, Basics, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Cotton + Steel
  • Kangaroos, Terra Australis, Emma Jean Jansen, Ella Blue Fabrics
  • Catmint, Catnap, Lizzy House, Andover

White Background Fabrics (2024)

  • RJR Supreme Solid in White
  • XOXO, Basics, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Cotton + Steel
  • Dottie, Basics, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Cotton + Steel
  • Netorious, Basics, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Cotton + Steel

Grey background fabric (2615)

Now, lest you think I am super organized and really clever, here is what my shocking original fabric reference sheet looks like!!

Aviatrix Color Chart ORIGINAL

Hahaha. It's been through the war.

I chose several coordinating threads and here they are in my little tin. If you are interested which Aurifil thread colors I chose, they are listed next to the fabric in parenthesis. For the grey family, rather than matching each color, I chose a nice variegated grey, and another, softer solid grey for the background grey. All of the white fabrics will be quilted with true white.

I need a few more reds...but I'm able to get going as my greys are here and they were next!

I do plan to quilt this quite close, so I am hoping this is a handy reference in case I need it in future. It's a bit of an outlay to invest in so much thread, but I know how much I love hand-quilting, so I'm certain that these colors will be in frequent rotation!

That's about it for fabric & thread - hit me in the comments if you have any questions! x

I could see the texture of this from across the room. I love it so much!!

Monday
Dec082014

Aussie Aviatrix QAL - Butterfly Border!

Hi everyone! Thanks for popping by to have a look at my quick post on how to do the beautiful butterfly border! I'm certain you enjoyed Daisy & Jack's post on the log cabin border, so full of great tips! Thanks again to Linden for organizing the QAL and inviting me to join. :)

A quick note on my design choices: I did follow Elizabeth Hartman's color chart, but instead opted to work from my stash and use prints. For the white fabric, the only pure white is in the centre star, and the rest are various white-on-white Cotton & Steel prints. The solid grey background is Michael Miller Cotton Couture in Ozone and the white in the medallion is the RJR Supreme Solids white that came with Cottn + Steel. (I will list all the fabrics eventually!)

Butterfly Border in situ

Let's get started!

First things first - butterfly wings! If you're not fussy cutting, I found it was very easy to just stack up several layers, draw around your template on the top layer, and use your rotary cutter and ruler to cut along the lines.

I did fussy cut a few, and I will show you how to do that. Gather up your tools - your templates, scissors, a half-chewed up pencil, a ruler, a rotary cutter (not shown because of grabby hand toddlers).

Tools & Supplies

I wanted little cheeky kitties for this one so I traced around a few. I'm missing a point there but it's okay as it's not inside the seam allowance (which is drawn on my template plastic).

Fussy cut

Now - my fabric for the background has a right side and a wrong side. If you double it over, wrong sides together, as shown, you can get all four pieces from just two cuts.

Wrong sides together

So lay down your BG template, draw the angle, and then turn it around and complete the rectangle.

Marking your background units

You can do this the whole strip of fabric, but since I'm just making the one block, I'll stop here and use my rotary cutter and ruler to cut them out. :)

Use rotary cutter to cut along lines

I had my neutral stems all cut out in advance, so I could lay the block out to admire it (and make sure I was sewing it correctly). :)

Lay it out

Here's where I deviated. I have sewn enough triangles to be able to eyeball a 1/4" seam and know where the little dog ear falls off, so I didn't bother marking a single one of these. I am a terrible blog hop person for not showing you how to do it with the marked dots, so if you are not a confident sewist, you should definitely mark yours! But if you're after a quick cheat, you can lay yours out like this and check the seam line against your ruler. See how that quarter inch line comes at where the points meet?

A 1/4" seam

Once you've sewn it, press the seams. I pressed mine outward from the centre, but you might want to press them open - that is up to you. (I opted for quick!)

Pressed and ready to meow

Sew your stem on. And voila! A very blurry picture. (Sorry. Don't know what is going on with my regular camera!)

Finished block

I pressed my blocks like this, with the stem being completely obscured on the back. It still lays pretty flat and looks pretty good, and as I know where all the seam lines are, I can hand-quilt it accordingly. (I use different needles for different thicknesses!)

Back of the block

So that's how to make a single block!

I organized mine for chain piecing by separating them into color piles. The butterflies are actually pretty easy as the colorful fabric coordinates with the neutrals, eg all the Fabric 1 colorful wings will have Neutral Fabric 1 stems. I then put them on a work tray and used my test butterfly block to encourage me along. :)

Encouragement is required for this final border.

It got a bit messy at times. I had to perk myself up with coffee. (Pun alert.) By the end I was just chain piecing entire sections one BG triangle at a time, snipping it, flipping it, and doing the other side. I pressed in bulk, then added stems to one side of every finished wing piece, pressed it, then added the other finished wing piece.

I am newly inspired to finish my Aviatrix Medallion quilt top since I get to meet @vinelines IRL tomorrow! #sewsewsew

Chain piecing it in sections does make it go a LOT quicker - and once you've made a few, you get a feel for where the seam line goes. Here are all my finished blocks, ready to be plucked from their little grid and sewn into rows! (This was very late at night a few weeks ago.)

YASSSSS.

I followed the pattern exactly, as it was much less of a bother than figuring out an alternative. Haha.

Here is my finished, basted quilt top as of yesterday! It's being hand-quilted.

The full quilt top, basted & ready for hand quilting! #aviatrixmedallion #aussieaviatrixqal At #sydmqg ready to show it off!!

(A close up of the hand quilting just to show it off a bit. I'm using Aurifil Mako 12wt and applique needles with a thick 16" hoop, and hoping to get it done in a few months. I've got a lot of TV shows saved up to watch while I quilt.)

Quilting has begun!

So that's it! I think the butterfly border was pretty quick once I got into a rhythm. It's not a one-hour border, but it's a solid half-day of sewing if you prep well. Even better if you don't have to check to see that your fabric is right sides together...there's an argument for using solids if ever I heard one. :)

Happy sewing and thanks again for having me!

Penny x

Saturday
Sep202014

English Paper Piecing

Hi everyone! Whew, it's been so rainy...today is such a nice day, so sunny and actually kind of warm, I'm really enjoying it! Of course I'm in a cafe with my computer but shh, let's just pretend I'm a beachy person. :)

A few evenings ago on Instagram I hosted an impromptu how-to on paper piece hexagons. I thought I would share that here and elaborate a little, answering the questions I got along the way!

(Firstly, let me say that I call myself a thread-baster but I do use glue. I will explain, but bear with me, you'll need both thread and glue for basting!)

Paper piecing tutorial starts now! Supplies: peeper (mine is from @kimbradleycreations), paper pieces, either a regular glue stick or a Sewline glue stick, fabric, thread, needle, scissors.

Gather your supplies. You need fabric to fussy cut, a peeper tool (or a home-made one, see below), good sturdy needles, sharp scissors, a glue stick (either a Sewline or a plain old school stick), a pencil, thread, and of course, paper pieces! I buy most of my paper pieces from www.paperpieces.com. They do what they do extremely well. (They also sell acrylic templates/peeper tools!)

Got everything? Sweet. Let's get going!

1. Centre your design for fussy-cutting, and trace around it with a pencil. (If you have sandpaper board, it helps to keep your fabric in place as you trace around your peeper!)

1. Centre fussy cut design in peeper, trace around outside if peeper with pencil.

2. Using sharp scissors, carefully cut along your traced line.

2. Cut out with scissors.

3. Smear a little tiny bit of glue onto the back of your paper piece -- NOT your fabric! I've found it's a lot easier to toss a too-gluey paper piece than try and rescue oversticky fabric. You do NOT want a lot of glue - really just enough to make the back of the paper tacky. It shouldn't move, but it should be easy to peel apart. Stick the sticky side of your paper to the wrong side of your fabric. Hold it up to a light source to centre your fussy cut design if needed!

3. A smidge of glue on your paper piece. Then wrong side of fabric meets paper!

4. Single thread a needle with a double loop knot. (I roll the thread around my finger and pull, and that usually forms a nice lumpy knot.) Fold the edges of your fabric down around the paper, tucking in the corners. Being careful not to pierce the paper, bring the needle under the fold of the fabric and pull through. Create a loop exactly over the same stitch -- this fastens the corner down.

4. Single thread, knotted. Fold one corner under. Tuck needle under and through all fabric but MISS the paper, pull thread through, and place needle in the same spot again to secure it.

Keep going around until you have double-looped each corner. Finish off by making another loop on your first seam. This keeps it basted until the end of days, pretty much. :)

(The back of a hexagon basted around, not through, the paper.)

That is how I thread-baste without going through the papers! This works for hexagons and diamonds up to 1.5" per side. (After that it gets a bit complex, and I find it easier to baste through the paper.)

Go ahead and make a few more! Then let's sew them together!

Place your hexies right-sides-together. Starting a little bit in from the end, make two stitches going back toward the end of the hexagon. I whip-stitch, so I push the needle through, then pull it across and repeat the exact same procedure. Top through to bottom, 1mm apart. Take care not to pick up the paper within the hexagons - you should be sewing around it. Once you have finished a row, make two securing stitches. 5. Right sides together. Starting 1-2mm in, whip stitch to the end and turn around. Whip stitch entire length using tiny, uniform stitches. Do not catch the paper inside - after a bit, you learn to feel for it. Back stitch after finishing a seam.

Now to make a Y-Seam. Sort out your next hexagon and match it, right sides together, with one of the two hexagons. Sew that seam inwards toward the Y, making sure to backstitch at the beginning. When it is attached on one side, but not the other, FOLD one of your paper pieces in half to match up the other seams. It's totally fine! Sew and finish as usual.

6. Worried about Y seams? Sew one side down the usual way. Turn it around and fold the paper in half to accommodate the other side. Easy peasy.

Look! You did it! Yay!

Ta-da!

That's how to do hexagons. These are 3/4" and I used Michael Miller Cotton Couture and Tula Pink for this tutorial. Let me know how you do and please let me know if you have any questions!

Cheers!

Penny x

 

Note: To make a peeper tool of your own, use template plastic or cardstock. Draw around your paper piece. Add 1/4" or 3/8" seam allowance to each side. Cutting carefully, cut out the centre of the peeper (your original shape) to form the viewing window, and then cut the outside line. Label it so you know what size it is, and you're good to go. :)

Saturday
Aug092014

A quick break!

Hi everyone!

I have been swamped - it has been unexpectedly a writerly fortnight for me! (When the muses call, etc.) I apologize for anyone hanging on the edge of their seats for my Quilter's Kit updates. I will reconfigure them to be a monthly feature and hopefully we can get back on track very soon. In the meantime, look out for my tutorials for making half-square triangles (HTSs), making and attaching binding with a sewing machine or by hand, and a few sneaky, exciting things I have been (frantically) working on... watch this space!


Oh and I know this is kind of a boring post, I do apologize. I was writing writing writing all last week and the week before - a total of 98,000 words! I finally finished a very difficult scene, and I wrote an entirely new MS. So many characters running around my head!

I did squeeze in SOME sewing... look at this beauty.

I kinda love the quilting on this one. #shatteredstar

That's the small version of my Shattered Star quilt...stay tuned...more info on that coming along!

Hope you're all well!

Penny xx

Friday
Jul252014

Rotary Cutters & Mats

Hello! Welcome to Part 2 of The Quilter's Kit!

the quilter's kit

Today we're talking about rotary cutters and mats.

Untitled

I use only one brand for mats and cutters, and that is Olfa. I've tried the cheaper brands, and I've tried the comparable brands, and I keep coming back to Olfa.

Cutting Mat

I have a ton of wrist and hand related issues, probably dating back to being a hard presser in school (you could always tell my assignments - it was the one with all the holes in it from writing too hard!). I tend to use my rotary cutter the same way, with a hard press.

Untitled

Two ways I've found to temper my hard-pressing (thus saving my poor wrists and fingertips) is to always have a sharp blade on my rotary cutter, and to use a high-quality mat. I started out using squishier mats, but they seem to catch and trap fibers much more quickly. And then I realized, the squishiness of the mats might feel like it's doing a better job, but I'm actually using it as an excuse to press harder, and that a) dulls my blade much faster, and b) cuts my mat to pieces within months.

As soon as I bit the bullet and bought an Olfa mat for my primary cutting surface, I noticed that my blades dulled much less quickly. I was going through one blade a quilt on my cheap mat...and now I'm changing blades every 3-4 months, at most. So the false economy of a cheap mat has been easily disproven - I spent $15 more for my Olfa mat and I've saved at least that on cutter blades, plus, my mat is nowhere near needing replacing (the other ones lasted 8-12 months on average and I often stretched them past good use.)

The Olfa mat is a bit harder. The rotary blade seems to bite into it just enough to ensure a smooth cut but not so much it damages the mat or dulls your blade. I confess, I also use it as a coaster (!!! so naughty), but it wipes clean beautifully.

My three sized mats are 12" x 18", 18' x 24" (my primary), and a 12" square rotating mat.

I hardly ever wash my mats, I tend to just wipe spilled tea off them (heh), but there are lots of good care tutorials out there - here is one that looks pretty good.

Rotary Cutter

Untitled

I use an ergonomic locking 45mm rotary cutter. It has to be safe as I have grabby kids, so the lock is essential. (I also have an Olfa Splash for taking with me to quilt days, and a mostly forgotten 18mm cutter for template precision.) I quite like the shape of this mat and I think it works really well. The blades are pretty affordable ($4.50 at my LQS) and I like to keep a few on hand. I recently had the chance to try another, cheaper blade, and I definitely noticed a difference. It snagged and dulled much more quickly. As I'm a fairly hard presser and a pretty active cutter (I cut out about one quilt or project a week, sometimes more than one) I like my blades to last long and my hand to show less fatigue.

Rulers

I'll probably talk about rulers later, but for now, let me say, buying Clear Grip has saved my fingers. It is completely transparent, you can cut it to the size you need, and it really grips fabric.

When you cut, you should tent your fingers and lean over the ruler. I do shoulder over wrist, with my arm bent, and I cut very carefully.

Untitled

Never ever cut toward yourself, and regularly check your rulers and mats for warping. I've been fortunate to find laser-cut rulers which are the most accurate, and my mats are generally pretty accurate. I tend to cut measuring with my ruler, not my mat, but for a long time I did it the other way around, and noticed no real change in accuracy!

Hopefully this helps - I'd love to hear what everyone else uses and why! :)

 

Monday
Jul212014

Portable Sewing Kit

A question came up on my Facebook page yesterday: "What does everyone keep in their portable sewing kit?"

I have an answer for this, and I thought it might be fun if everyone shared their sewing kits on Instagram (hashtag #showyoursewingkit). But I brought it here to talk about in a little more depth.

Here are the contents of my sewing kit.

In my portable sewing kit

 

  • Sewline Marking Pen - This comes as a duo with an eraser pen. I use this to mark hexagons mostly.
  • Seam-Fix Seamripper - The rubbery tip can be used as an eraser to nudge tiny threads out of fabric.
  • Sewline Needle Threader - Has a magnet, needle case (which I can't use with my long needles), threads the needle, and has a tiny blade on one side for cutting thread.
  • Busyfingers Patchwork Size 9 Milliners' Needles - my favorite for applique
  • Bohin Size 9 Milliners' Needles - my favorite for hexagons
  • Clover Hera Marker - I use this for most of my marking. Especially nice for tryig to press tiny applique seams - just press it along your line and it forms the crease for you! Also good for HSTs and quilting lines.
  • Burt's Bees Chapstick - Because I have thirty of these in my house and this is where one of them lives
  • Famore scissors - Very sharp and the pointed tip is perfect to snip threads mid-seam
  • Clover Wonder Clips - Great for starting hexagon basting or holding things in place
  • Matilda's Own 1" x 6" Ruler - Used for marking HSTs and other straight line work
  • Aurifil Thread (in a few different colors) - 50wt (red) is preferred over 40wt green) but I use what I have based on color of thread
  • Bostik Glue Stick - for sticking my hexagon papers to my cut fabric pieces. Just a touch to keep them together!
  • Clover Open Thimble - For hand-quilting this is a lifesaver. Goes over long fingernails and can adjust down.
  • Clover Needle Threaders - These little ones usually go in individual project bags - they have a blade so you can cut thread without scissors and they're tiny, making them great for planes
  • Needle Gripper - This is primarily for hand-quilting, as I quilt with perle cotton and sometimes I need a bit of grip
  • Roxanne's Applique Glue - used to hold my applique down without all those poky pins.

 

That's my sewing kit! I'd love to see what you use for your handsewing! :)

Friday
Jul182014

Thread & Needles.

I have promising to talk about what kind of thread I use for yonks, and what better way to kick off the inaugural post of The Quilter's Kit than with a discussion about one of few things you literally cannot sew without: thread & needles.

the quilter's kit

 

This is a quick overview of the needles and thread I use the absolute most.

Thread & Needles - A Quilter's Kit 1

Thread

I use Aurifil Cotton Mako for most of my machine and hand work. I like it because it's not linty and it doesn't break or fray. I'm a miser at heart, so I don't like it when my recommended 18" of thread frays before its time. Aurifil doesn't do the fray thing. It also cuts cleanly, like when you need to unsew. We've all been there, and it's no fun picking bits of cruddy, linty thread out of a seam. Amy Badskirt wrote more about that here. You can see many different kinds of thread under a microscope here. And another great, in-depth review can be found here. If you're worried about how it goes on a Bernina, there's a handy video here!

Aurifil Thread

Also? Let me state for the record, I do not like switching threads between piecing, quilting, or handwork. Whatever I'm piecing with needs to be good enough to quilt with. Aurifil 50wt does that for me (red spool). It's my favorite for everything. 40wt (green spool) is slightly thicker; I like it for bag making. I've sewn with 28wt but my Bernina didn't like it at all, and I haven't tried their 12wt for handwork yet. (I'll keep you posted.)

I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that Aurifil 50wt can be bought for a 1300m spool for $13 at my local quilt shop...making it the most economic thread on the market. And you get more on the bobbin, which means less stopping mid-seam!

Another thing I have on hand for handwork is this handy little Superior Threads Donut.

Superior Thread Donut

It's a great rainbow of threads and it works for applique and piecing together tiny handwork of different colors. So far I like it slightly less than Aurifil, but until they get a donut, short of winding bobbins from my exisiting spools, I will be taking the Superior donut around in a pinch.

I love to hand-quilt, but I am not a "traditional" 13 stitches to the inch hand-quilter. I'd go blind or crazy! I prefer to perle quilt, which is sometimes (derisively) called "big stitch quilting" because of the larger stitches used. I think perle quilting is absolutely beautiful, and my favorite perle cotton is Valdani 12wt. I will use 8wt but I prefer the slightly finer 12wt - I'm a touch arthritic so less thread to tug through three or more layers is better.

Perle Cotton

Machine Needles

Did you know the main culprit for your thread breaking is often your sewing machine needle? A dull needle punches the fabric (a "pop" or "thunk" sound), will break thread, and will not catch your skin when you drag it across your skin. (Obviously turn your machine off before you stick your finger under a sewing machine needle!)

A while ago I was a fierce Klassé evangelist. They are reasonably solid needles; the only problem is they break like crazy and blunt like the dickens. (So they are normal sewing maching needles, basically.) I'm religious about changing my needle (every two bobbins, or every time it starts to "punch" the fabric) so I was going through... four or five a week, sometimes. Yikes.

Then I was tipped off to the wonderful Superior Topstitch needle. I use the pink packet (90/14) for quilting on my Juki and the blue packet (80/12) for piecing on my Bernina. And apart from the fact that they needles are extremely hard to break (they bend, but no bits flying off at your eyeballs), the eye is huge, so even a blind-as-a-bat like myself can thread them. This is the worst picture in the history of the world, so please just read the infographic.

Topstitch Vs Klasse Machine Needles

For what it's worth, I've stopped changing my needles. They stay sharp and pointy for so long I'm starting to suspect witchcraft. :)

Handsewing Needles

I primarily stitch hexagons, but I do a bit of perle quilting here and there. The needles I use from left to right are:

Busyfingers Patchwork Milliners Size 9 - these are my applique and fine sewing work needles. They have a slightly longer eye but are overall slimmer, so they get a wee bend if you are a tough old crone like me. But these are my absolute FAVORITE needles to sew with. They are worth their weight in gold. (I have successfully converted a few people.)

Bohin's Milliners Size 9 - these are my crowbars. Perfect for basting hexies and handsewing seams, my only compaint is that the eye is a bit small, making it hard to thread on buses, airplanes, while Mr Poppleton is driving, etc. These I don't mind giving to starting sewists - they're strong and sturdy, but are still capable of fine work.

Clover Sashiko Needles - I use sashiko needles for perle quilting as they're long, sharp, fat in the middle (making the passage of thread easier, which places less stress on the thread causing it to fray less), and reasonably easy to thread.

My 3 Handsewing Needles

I hope you found this helpful, and of course I'd love to hear what you use!

Thursday
Jul172014

The Quilter's Kit.

Edit: This post has been modified to reflect a change in posting dates!

We all have certain things we like, don't we?

We wear comfortable grooves in our lives with our favorite things. Favorite cafes, favorite bakers, favorite running routes, favorite worn-out old undies that are probably too feral to wear but you can't throw them out because favorite.

When you get start out quilting and crafting, it can be quite overwhelming. There's so much information out there, and sometimes, not enough. A three hundred word review that may or may not be comped usually isn't enough of a recommendation; if I hear about something, I want to dig in and ask questions. I want to try it, or see someone else use it. I want the deets.

I've been kicking around the idea of taking people through my sewing room, and it seems like a perfect opportunity to start this long-running idea: The Quilter's Kit.

the quilter's kit

It's everything I use, and why I use it, in (occasionally) exhaustive detail. Hopefully this will serve not only as a personal resource, but a useful place where people who really want a certain seam ripper can have another opinion to weigh their preferences against. We're all so different - this is some of what works (and doesn't work) for me.

Whenever I get the chance, I'll post on each topic and update this list as each post goes up!

If there's anything I've missed, please let me know - I'll be adding to this masterlist as I go. And of course I would LOVE to hear what you love to use and why. :)

Thursday
Jul172014

Winner!

A few weekends ago, we went to Canberra for a flying visit. We were giggly and a bit surprised at ourselves, spontaneous overnight trips with a pair of ratty toddlers not being our usual affair. On the way there, we saw a shooting star! "Quick," I told Mr Poppleton, "make a wish."

I wished for something. I just want something, I thought. I was wild to make a wish – it was 11pm and we'd been trying to get around a Kwazy Konvoy of tailgating-lane-swerving-no-limit-observing cars we'd been stuck with for around 40km – but I didn't have a specific wish. So I wished for something.

We had a great time in Canberra and saw lots of really lovely people, and we were home by 630pm. Not even a full day. That night as we were sitting on the sofa, unwinding, kids asleep, my phone buzzed. I had an email:

You've won an award for one of your quilts!

Isn't that something!

WINNER.

Second Place - Traditional Machine Quilted (Amateur) for my quilt Southwest Sunrise, designed, pieced, and quilted by me.

(Pattern forthcoming, once I get half a second to myself to sit down and finish writing it.)

I did not expect to win anything. I'm a second year entrant for heaven's sake! I had many friends win awards for their beautiful, amazing, inspired quilts...and still more who made quilts I was in absolute awe of that didn't get a ribbon. It must be impossible to choose a winner in any category, but I am grateful to have gotten recognition. And I feel so humbled, not just from winning, but because my girlfriends were there to support me, and one took off work and another came as a surprise and I just feel so blessed you know?

Anyway, winning a little pink ribbon flipped on a light bulb for me. This thing I do? It's not just a hobby. And I am not entirely crappy at it pretty great at it!

Anyway, off to bask in my cuteness (I am so cute, look at my little grinning moon face) for a little while longer. I'm already planning the next two years' show quilts. No hope of winning - just the joy of being part of something larger than myself. Contributing to the community.And having fun stitching!

Have a great day everyone!

x