Saturday, 16 March 2013

Quilting the Motifs

Free Motion Quilting Project Linking up with Leah Day's Free Motion Friday
 Linking up with Leah Day's UFO Sunday

This was my original design for the Compass Motifs

 I had intended to use my Clover tracing mesh to mark the designs on the quilt top and it worked grand for the Sun and the Wind, but when it came to the other designs they were just too complex to work, so sighing inwardly, I used the paper method to print out the designs and sew through the paper and then tear away.   I knew that it wasn't going to be as clean and easy as the directions claimed "just sew and tear" and was resigned to knowing that I would end up spending ages carefully picking out pieces of paper from between stitches.   But it was getting to the stage where I was beginning to vacillate and the time spent between avoiding doing and doing was getting longer and longer.   So bite the bullet and get going.

Sewing the dragon
 One of the corner moons with the paper partially unpicked.
 The much easier Wind quilted.
 Another moon nearly cleaned of paper
 The ship midway through removing the paper
 Mermaid nearly done.
 The sun.

My idea was I would take my time cleaning out all the paper on the motifs and then go back again and finish the quilting in them.   I plan to do a lot more quilting in the motifs and build them up.   In order to allow myself some nice quilting time while doing the unpicking chore, I'd continue the free motion part - this is Leah Day's Poseidons Eye which will swirl and flow around the center compass, and then probably flow into something like Goldilocks, with Edge of Reality around the edges of the quilt.

Getting back into the swing of things, woo hoo

Friday, 15 March 2013


I really can't believe it has been four months since I posted but time does fly.   I do have excuses.   My lovely eldest sister came to stay for four months, right at the same time I started the process of buying a house back in Ireland, and applied for a new job.   Between gathering information for the mortgage, preparing for interviews and just enjoying my sister's company, posting didn't seem so important and alongside that my quilting process just slowed down - didn't stop but slowed down.   Now two months into a new job, just completed on the house and missing my sister, I'm settling back into my routine and am beginning work again in earnest on Mariner's Compass.

I did manage some progress on the Compass but I'll save that for the next post, but although I say I didn't do much quilting realise that actually I did complete a good bit.   I took my sister to my local quilt shop to help me choose backing fabric for my round robin Mama Africa quilt - a group of 11 of us finished a two year border round robin in late September, and we found a beautiful fabric from a range by Jinny Beyer's Rajasthan Spray.    We then saw all the 19 variations of colours and I mentioned how it would make a great quilt project to work with colours and we decided to buy a fat quarter of each, divide into two and create a quilt each.   My sister has never quilted and after watching a bit of progress on the compass and absorbing Leah Day's 365+ Free Motion Quilting Designs, decided to take Leah's advice that you might as well practise free motion on a quilt as on endless test quarters and dived in.   By the end she was limitless in her creativity and fearlessness in trying something new and our agreed 20 minutes a day of quilting just extended and extended.  I'd go to make a cup of tea in the evenings, come out to find the living room empty and hear the sound of my sewing machine purring away and Marcelle "just doing another couple of minutes".   Enjoy her progress and work and remember this is a quilt from someone who hasn't sewn much with a machine and has never made a quilt and be wowed.   She really is an inspiration and a bit of a kick up the butt for those of us who want everything to be perfect before we free motion.

 Last stitches on her quilt
 Showing Leia her Anubis inspired block.

 Celebrating first snuggle under her quilt with a glass of bubbly

Oh and I also managed when I could wrestle the machine off her to finish two large nap quilt tops for family members which I had promised myself I would do this year.   So all I have to do is to sandwich those and quilt away with more Leah designs to have them finished BUT only after I finish the Compass.   Still taking that time away from the Beast was a nice break it was lovely to have fun quilting my own Crazy Quilt just picking designs from the 365+ and seeing which ones I just had no problem and the others that really scuppered me.    I really pushed myself not to be anal about my feathers and just got into a flow of doing and not marking.   It was very interesting to see how I could manage a decent set of feathers when curving in one direction, but how my brain just couldn't engage with the pattern in another.   Another lesson learnt about trying designs in different directions and seeing which direction works and which doesn't.

A final point.   When Marcelle started she was distressed about her first couple of blocks and was ready to get the seam ripper out.    I advised her to just leave them until the end so she could see how she had improved and then to make a decision on whether to rip or not rip.   By the end she would complete a block show me, and then point to the first blocks and proudly show the improvement.  So the moral is, just do it, and keep on doing it, and don't stop to remove the signs of imperfection but enjoy the process of learning and growing. By the time she got to the end Marcie was adamant that she would not unpick those first blocks and in fact got huge amounts of pleasure in looking at successive blocks and tracing improvement, skill and also acknowledging continued errors without feeling weighted down by them.   There is something magical to look at your own imperfections in parts and still see that the whole is perfect and precious – I think both of us really saw if that we could see this in a quilt and embrace it, then why we can’t embrace that about ourselves – in parts imperfect but as a whole totally wonderful.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Quilting the Centre Compass - The Beast


Well phew, the large centre compass is finished.   It took me longer then I planned and hoped due to a number of factors.   Primarily my clever plan of quilting the smaller compasses backfired big time.    Instead of being able to squish the quilt under the throat, due to the heavy quilting on the smaller compasses it was very difficult to manage and really impacted my ability to manage any intricate quilting on the large compass.

So I fell back to the old standard.   Pebbling on the rumbas, large and small stippling on the large compass points, Leah's Wiggly Tentacles on the smaller points and then used half of the Leah's Wiggly Woven Lines and Leah's Deco Leaves which I think worked quite well.

I also had issues with bunching as I quilted sections close together, nothing I can do but quilt them flat.
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I was tempted to be disheartened and feel like I had ruined the quilt due to rushing, quilting sections without thought for how it would impact the rest of it and so on.   But I'm choosing to take this as a huge learning by doing experience.     This is my quilt and not a gift for someone else so I can chill a bit about quality and basically I'm getting a lot of quilting practise under difficult circumstances.

I'm delighted to be able to focus on the next sections, decorative quilting which should be easier to manage as they are along the sides so I'll be able to keep the majority of the quilt to the left of the needle and not stuffed under the throat.    I'm also looking forward to using lots of Leah's water/sea quilting patterns to fill out the rest.

My machine is going to the doctors tomorrow for an overhaul while I'm in Macau for work, so we'll both come back refreshed and ready for the next section of quilting.

What I have realised is that for me having a quilt sitting around as a UFO means that when I come to quilt it, I already feel like that project has been around for ages and feels behind and a bit stale.    I'm really looking forward to starting a project from scratch and seeing how the quilting feels.

I had wanted to do two large nap quilts for family for Christmas, but as I have to post them by middle of December if I don't start now then I won't be finished in time.    I really don't want to put Compass on hold.   I just feel strongly that I must finish it completely and not get distracted by something else.   So I've decided that these quilts are going to be Valentine Day presents, both are single ladies so I think that will be a lovely surprise and I won't be pushing to get them done for a very close deadline and having a quilt half finished waiting for them to be finished.     I have to say it feels very good to have made that decision and not fall back into the old ways.

So all in all the Compass isn't proving to be the showcase of my quilting abilities that I had always fantasised about, but boy is it proving to be a complete blessing and teaching tool about myself, overcoming adversity and simply just doing and not procrastinating.   I have a feeling this is a quilt I will pull out on bad days, when life seems to be going wrong or not working out how I had hoped and I'll be able to lie underneath it and reassure myself that a quilt is layers of fabric held together by stitches and is not about quality or perfection, but warmth, colour and effort, just like life.

Again many thanks to Leah for keeping me on track.
UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project