2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Actual Blocks!

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Marsala

At last, I’ve made a proper start on my Marsala Spice quilt!
spice_2103_2Here are some assembled blocks!  I’m thrilled by the colours so far.  As a reminder, here’s the palette I picked from Pantone’s website:pantone_marsala

Not a bad match, eh?  :)  So there’s good progress, but I have a problem.  Part of the problem is that I’m short of my over-dyed Marsala colour so I can’t make the big 72″ x 72″ quilt I’d had in mind with it.  And I really like that quite strong, graphic look of the basic blocks, so in many ways I don’t want to detract from it by adding complications.  I still have another “marsala” fabric that may yet get added into the mix, but it is patterned and looks quite different to my solid Marsala and I’m having trouble picturing how it’s all going to work together.Marsala Spice fabrics

When I get a chance I’m probably going to churn out some more blocks using the leafy fabric, probably in both large and small versions, and then skiffle everything about until I get something I like.  Spare blocks will probably end up on the back.

More info on the Pantone Challenge can be found at On The Windy Side and play crafts.

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Dyeing To Meet Marsala

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Marsala

I wasn’t happy with how burgundy my Marsala fabric appeared in some lights, so I decided to hit it with some dye.

spice_1803_6After some deliberation, I picked Dylon’s dark brown.  I only wanted to shift the shade of the fabric a few clicks towards brown, so I only used one sachet despite having slightly more than 250g of fabric to dye.spice_1803_4This plastic bucket was the perfect size to hold both fabric and dye and kept me from making an epic mess of the kitchen sink!  In fact, the only thing I managed to unintentionally dye was myself:

spice_1803_2When dyeing, it’s important to establish beforehand that your gloves don’t leak!spice_1803_5The packet of dye suggested a total immersion time of an hour, but I decided to remove my fabric after only half an hour because I didn’t want it to be too brown.  Then I rinsed it out really well and threw it in the washing machine with a couple of colour catchers (which came out very brown!).

I’m really quite pleased with the final colour; it seems more red-brown now rather than burgundy.spice_1803_1I was disappointed that I didn’t get a textured look at all, but I’m not sure this dye works like that and I did stir the fabric in it pretty well.  Anyway, I like this colour and I’m looking forward to seeing it in my blocks.  With luck, I should get a chance to get started with cutting and piecing this weekend.  After some back-of-envelope calculations, I’ve realised I don’t have enough of this fabric to be able to make the size of quilt I want with the large (24″) blocks, but I should be able to do something good with the small (12″) blocks, or maybe even a combination of the two.  That’ll teach me to buy fabric first and do the maths later!  (But probably not.)

Suddenly, A Bag

It’s my sister’s birthday tomorrow.  I made her a bag.Bag_4

It’s a slightly modified version of the Two-Zip Hipster from Dog Under My Desk.  The pattern went together pretty well, despite the fact that I used Ikea furnishing fabric for the outer and the weird selection of interfacings I could find locally rather than all quilting-weight cottons and Pellon, which I don’t think exists here.  I did have fun fussy-cutting the outer fabric for the inner and outer pockets.  :)

I also made and added a little clip to hold keys:Bag_1

And an extra zipped pocket on the other side of the lining:Bag_2Bag_3

It went a bit wrinkly at the corners, but seems to be ok now the bag’s all finished.  Bags can never have too many pockets, to my mind.Bag_5

I also decided to use webbing for the strap rather than making one from the fabric:Bag_8All in all, I’m pretty pleased with it!

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social!

Japan Fan Club – FINISHED!

Japan_Fans_FINISHED_3

This is my proud face:  :D :D :D :D  It’s taken over a year, but at last mum’s new Japanese-style door curtain is finished!  (Ummm, just in time for us to move out of the house it’s useful in, but oh well!)  It’s also well in time for Mother’s Day this Sunday and for the A Lovely Year of Finishes challenge for March.  :)  Mum’s seen it in progress, but I’ve managed to keep most of the final quilting and finishing secret, so I don’t think she knows it’s done yet.Japan_Fans_FINISHED2_2

The backing is some fabric from mum’s stash, and was just the right size for this project.  Most of the quilting was done before the back was added, and only a small amount of in-the-ditch quilting around all the gold sashing was done afterwards to hold the sandwich together nicely and stop the backing flapping about a lot.  For this I used a gold-coloured (NOT metallic!) Aurifil on top and grey YLI soft touch in the bobbin, which has blended in really nicely with the back.  The top stitching all around the quilt was done with grey YLI soft touch and seems to have worked well, though it does show up quite a bit on the black areas.Japan_Fans_FINISHED_4

Now it’s done, there are a few things I think I would have done differently.  I’ve never done a turn-through backed quilt before, and if I did another then I would be wary of doing such dense quilting.  The quilt “pulled in” quite a bit because of the background quilting on the grey areas and that affected how flat (or not!) the quilt lies and made trimming it square tricky.  I should also really have done the foundation quilting in the ditches first, not last!  I did this for a reason – because I wanted to use that quilting to hold the three layers together – but in practice that was a bit of a silly way to do it!  The dense quilting really affected the squareness of the blocks and there was nothing much to brace against to mitigate the effect.  The backing worked out astonishingly well, though, and I’m very happy with how neat and square it is.

All in all, I am ever so pleased that this has come out looking even slightly like I imagined/hoped it would!  Fingers crossed mum likes it on Sunday and that it keeps many draughts away!  :)

Linking up with TGIFF, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop? and ALYoF!  :D

More FMQ, More Fans

I’VE FINISHED THE CLOUDS!!!Japan_Fans_1003_2

I decided to experiment with the tension some more, dropping it from 4.6 to 4.2 and then to 3.8.  Based on how the last few blocks look at that tension, I’d say 3.8 is a winner.  There seemed to be no adverse effects on the back, either; I hate it when my thread grows tension legs!

You can see (just about) that I’ve started doing some quilting on the red bits of the window frame.  It’s essentially a squared off, slanted zig-zag between the two seam lines.  I’m doing these free-motion and finding that straight lines and FMQ is an uneasy combination!  They’re quite wibbly.Japan_Fans_1003_3

I started off completely free-hand, no marking at all, which worked but was slow because I had to juggle FMQ and figuring out if I was going in approximately the right direction.  Then I remembered (and found!) my new water-erase fabric pen and decided to do some guidelines because I’m better at following a line.  And then discovered that, even with a pen, I can’t draw a straight line!  Not sure if that makes me feel better or worse about the not-straight FMQ lines.  It has made the FMQ go a bit quicker, though, and I’ve found an angle to work at that I can manage fairly well in all necessary directions; initially I was rotating the quilt around the needle at every corner and it was doing horrible things to both quilt and needle.Japan_Fans_1003_1

Despite the wobbles, I’m not going to start using a ruler or a walking foot for this – better if it’s ALL kind of wobbly and organic-looking rather than a mix of wobbly and machine-precise.  I’m pretending it’s wood grain!

Mum can’t see why I would want to do this free-motion rather than with a walking foot.  I tried and failed to explain the need for practice to achieve better control over the movement of the fabric and needle and thus better results in future.  I admit, this doesn’t look as amazing as I’d like it to look, but I’m not going to get any better if I don’t do more of it.

At this point, almost all the red on one curtain is done, my plan is to finish that off and then do the same on the black frames.  Then put the back and the hanging loops on, do some minimal in-the-ditch quilting around the frames to hold the whole lot together and it’ll be DONE!  In time for Mother’s Day on Sunday!  I can’t wait!

Linking up with Free Motion Mavericks, Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts and WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced!

Finished Things!!!

And on a more cheerful note, squee!  Finished things!  (That are gifts, as it happens.)

Reversible table runner

runner_2502_2runner_2502_3

We have here a table runner for my aunt and uncle; they came down for a quick visit the other weekend and I managed to finally get some binding on it and give it to them.

Below are the quilts for my cousin’s little boy and girl, which I’ve had in various states of almost finished for ages.  Finally I went on a binding spree and did them both when I had a quiet moment home alone.  And the next time I take it into my head to edge a quilt with black fabric, bind it with more black fabric and hand-finish the binding with black thread, I would like to have some sense slapped into me, please!  It’s basically impossible to do in anything other than natural light, and even then it’s a challenge.  but it’s DONE!!!

Coin Stack

coin_stack_finished

 Colourful Chevrons

chevrons_finished

These have all been finished for a few weeks now, but I had to wait for a dry, calm, sunny day to take them out and photograph them (not to mention needing to brush all the wadding lint off the Coin Stack, which I only managed today).  At this time of year, in this part of Wales, such things are hard to come by!  I’m so glad to have these done and I have a follow-up quilt laid out on the floor now for a little brother or sister (due at the start of April).  It’s a straightforward Plus quilt so it should be quite quick to assemble – just a bunch of 5″ squares.

Plus_layout

(I’ve filled in the gaps and shifted one or two things around, but that’s the gist of it.) With any luck, I might manage to have it done by the time baby #3 appears and be able to give all three kids their quilts at the same time.

Linking up with TGIFF for the first time!  :)

No Seriously, Stop That

It’s the question I most hate:  “What/Who’s this for, then?”spice_0303_4

Because apparently, wanting to make something just for sheer enjoyment of the creative process and seeing the finished product is not the right answer.  Nor is “I need the practice.”  Or “I just like playing with pretty fabric, ok?!”damask_suns

Hmmmph.frost_0303_2I still consider myself a novice quilter and, although I’ve learned a lot so far, there’s still a lot more to learn and I’m trying to enjoy and examine the whole process of quilt-making as I go.  Most of what I’ve made so far has been (or will be) given away and has a defined purpose, but I’m starting to find that there’s a certain pressure that comes with crafting projects for others.  Will they like it?  Will it be done in time?  Do I dare try a new technique and end up potentially ruining someone’s gift and having to start all over again?  Sometimes this pressure is a good thing – there’s nothing like a deadline for getting things done and crafting for someone else’s tastes can present an interesting challenge when it pushes me to use colours or techniques I might not otherwise have chosen.  And quite often I do try new techniques (because when you’re this new to quilting, it’s hard not to!).  I’m finding baby quilts are quite good for that (plus they’re small so they’re usually done fairly quickly!).With borders

However, as I learn more, I’m finding that there’s still a bewildering variety of techniques and inspiration out there, not to mention concepts and ideas I’ve come up with myself, that I’d like to experiment with.  Obviously, you can’t do ALL the things ALL at the same time (especially when quilting is your hobby, not your day job!), but when I get a chance and a stronger-than-usual prod from the creative muse, it’s nice to have a go at something new without feeling stressed about its reception by someone else or fretting over mistakes or avoiding new techniques because “OMG, it’s a present, I mustn’t mess it up!”  I like making things for other people, I promise I do, but sometimes I crave the freedom to craft for craft’s sake.heart_scraps_1201_7

So please, dear family, STOP asking who or what a project is for.  STOP asking me to justify every creation.  Sometimes I like to make things for themselves, no more and no less.  And maybe their value is only what they teach me.  The fact that something potentially snuggly and/or decorative may emerge from the process is a happy bonus.Large Blog Image

This video here is relevant:

(I’m still firmly in the “has good intentions, implementation kind of sucks” stage.  It’d be nice to get out of it at some point.)

Japan Fan Club: The Pfaff QE 4.2, Metallic Thread and FMQ

It sounds like the beginning of a dodgy pub joke, doesn’t it?

The Pfaff QE 4.2, metallic thread and FMQ walk into a pub.  The landlord looks up and says, “Sorry, I don’t serve mangled anecdotes.”

Ahem.  Anyway.  I am pleased to report that not only am I finally getting to grips with my FMQ demons, I’m doing so with metallic thread!  And it is WORKING!Japan_Fans_0503_1

(Well, kind of.)

I’m trying to do a sort of stipple effect that replicates that swirly, stylised cloud look often seen on oriental drawings and prints, with mixed success.  Sometimes it comes out quite well, other times I get lost, trapped in a corner or my hands decide to move in a direction other than the one I had in mind.  And I definitely have quilting density issues.Cloud swirl close up

However, at least I’m managing to do FMQ without lots of skipped stitches and broken thread, which is a MASSIVE win for me.  I have had the odd skipped stitch, true, but on the rare occasion it’s happened I’ve felt it was my fault for moving the quilt at the wrong moment rather than weird Pfaff-diva strop behaviour over a wrong thread/needle combo.

Japan_Fans_0503_4Initially, I started off by using white cotton piecing thread in the bobbin and my metallic thread on top in a vague effort to be a bit thrifty with my pricey speciality thread.  It worked, ish, but the white thread made its presence known, especially at any point where I made a sudden change in direction and it was pulled through to the front by the top thread.  You can easily see the build-up of white thread on the pointy bits.  :s  Not great.  Despite fidgeting with pivot height, tension and even balance, I couldn’t eliminate this effect, so after doing (and arguably making a mess of) six blocks I tucked the whole lot away until I was in a mood to tackle it afresh.

After I signed up this project as my goal for the March ALYoF challenge at Sew BitterSweet Designs and Fiber of All Sorts, I figured I’d better have another bash at it, so after polishing off some work this morning I pulled it all out, set up the Pfaff for FMQ, and got stuck in, this time with metallic thread in the bobbin as well as on top.  For any interested Pfaff owners looking for settings and pointers, here are the settings I used:Pfaff metallic FMQ settings

Feed dogs dropped, IDT system disengaged, and I’ve set up a personal stitch based on stitch 1 with the length set to 0 (because I found that if I used a pre-programmed stitch then the dratted thing kept resetting itself while I wasn’t looking) and no auto thread tie-off or cutting.  I’m using the new FMQ foot that Pfaff brought out recently, which feels like it’s doing a more competent job than the wider plastic one.  The needle I’m using is a Schmetz 80/12 metallic needle.The new Pfaff FMQ foot

You can see that I’m also using a straight-stitch plate (and have the corresponding setting enabled in the tools menu on the machine), and a Supreme Slider.  Oh, and I have a lil Teflon bobbin ring in there, too, that’s supposed to help stop thread nests.  And my wonderful (and wonderfully cheap at a whole £1.50!) FMQ gloves, without which I cannot grip and move the fabric effectively.Yes, theyre just light-weight gardening gloves!

Yes, they’re totally just light-weight work gloves, but they’re brilliant!  I’ve been reliably informed that thin cotton pimple-grip riding gloves work very well too.  Who needs to pay silly money for “special” quilting gloves?  ;)

Basically, ALL of the FMQ gadget bases are covered!  I love the straight-stitch plate and can’t see it coming off the machine much – the Pfaff’s great at piecing anyway but this just makes it even better.  <3

Japan_Fans_0503_2With metallic thread also in the bobbin, the look is better.  I’m not convinced that the pull-through effect of the bobbin thread has been eliminated, though I think it is better with both threads the same.  And at least it’s much harder to detect now everything’s the same colour!

My muscle memory for the quilting pattern is improving the more I do it, though I’m finding that it’s quite an intensive process both mentally and physically, so I take little breaks often to loosen up.  I think my machine’s bed is a bit high relative to my seat height, but there isn’t a vast amount I can do about it at the moment.

Starting and ending with metallic thread

This stuff is seriously sproingy.  It honestly has a mind of its own, which makes it somewhat incompatible with the Pfaff’s built-in thread catching, tie-off and cutting features because of its irritating habit of coiling wilfully and never being in the right place at the right time.  Metallic thread has taught me about the importance of bringing both threads to the top and securing them before starting to sew in earnest, since I’d already had trouble with the metallic straight-line quilting.  It’s almost become second nature already.

Bringing the bobbin thread to the topTo bring the bobbin thread to the top, I position the needle where I want to start and use the handwheel to lower the needle to just above the fabric.  Making sure I have hold of the end of the needle thread, I give a couple of gentle taps on the pedal lower the needle and then raise it again, and a gentle pull brings up a loop of bobbin thread.  This can be easily caught and brought all the way through with the point of a seam ripper.  (Using my seam ripper for tasks other than seam ripping makes me very happy!)Japan_Fans_0503_5

Holding both threads, I sew slowly and do several very tiny stitches before setting off “properly”.  At the end of my quilting, I reverse the process to end the thread.  It’s a bit more wasteful of thread than the Pfaff’s own tie-off and cutting mechanisms, but more effective and neater.  I did have an oops moment fairly early on, though, when I managed to break a precious needle at the end of a quilting line:Japan_Fans_0503_9

I think I was pulling the needle thread too tightly and when I tapped the pedal to drop the needle, it hit the stitch plate and snapped.  I was furious with myself!  The second needle is faring better though, and I’ve completely done one curtain and am almost half-way through quilting the second. WOO!

Japan_Fans_0503_12After I’ve finished all the cloudy bits, I’ll need to decide what to do about the window frames (I think they will be quilted at least a bit, they look odd now next to the heavily quilted windows) and the back (attach next, or after more quilting?).  Decisions, decisions!  :D

Linking up to Free Motion Mavericks!

Play Craft’s Equal – Top finished! Quilting?

frost_0303_1YESSSSSSSS!  All those triangles, all together!  So pleased with this one!  :D  For reference, here’s the original image I’ve been working on, created from Equal by Play Crafts (and thank you to Lori for pointing out that it was AWOL!):FrostByte

In a spirit of doing ALL the experiments, I have bought some 100% wool wadding for this (I have not tried wool yet) and I ordered some Aurifil thread for the quilting (I have not tried Aurifil, either).  And I couldn’t resist picking up some super-cute koi fish fabric for the back.  They manage to combine all the colours in the fabrics of the top, and I like the idea that, if I go with my all-over frosty feathers quilting idea, they’ll look (hopefully!) like they’re swimming below a skim of ice.  (I doubt I’m going to be that lucky, but I’m nothing if not ambitious!)Cute koi!

It will most likely be a wall hanging, or some other purpose that doesn’t demand a lot of washing and wear; the wool wadding seems to be a bit picky about cleaning methods and I’m not convinced all that glitter on the fabrics won’t all come off in the first wash.  Certainly there seems to be quite a bit on my ironing board!  Plus it’s kind of a funny size (~30 x 34″) to do anything with, especially as I have no intention of adding borders.

Fabric choices

After trying this pattern, I came to the conclusion that, although my light and dark fabrics worked well, my medium fabrics were less effective because the print is just too large – in some places the medium triangles look reasonably obvious, in others they’re almost impossible to distinguish from the light triangles.

frost_0303_2

Oooo look, actual colours!

I don’t mind this overly much, I suspected that it would be the case and I still like the outcome because I like these fabrics.  However, it does alter the look of the pattern a bit.  Were I to do this again, I would lean towards choosing solid or reads-as-solid fabrics over larger prints.  The use of two different prints for each shade was also a little confusing, though mostly because of the above-mentioned issue with the medium-coloured fabrics being too light in places.  That’s not something I would necessarily avoid in future, but again it changes the very graphic look of the original design.  I would also tend to avoid very directional prints, or the effort of getting everything pointed in the right direction could be maddening!

Fat quarters versus yardage?

I mostly used fat quarters for this; it did work out ok and my yardage estimates were pretty good.  However, I would say that, because of the approximation used when calculating the number of triangles in a strip (counting two half-triangles at each end of a strip as one whole triangle), there would be less wastage and yardage estimates would be more accurate if WOF yardage were used rather than fat quarters because it reduces the number of strips required (1 WOF strip = 2 FQ strips).  That means two fewer “wasted” half-triangles.  Alternatively, calculations for the number of strips needed could be approached differently to give a more accurate result.

Using up “ends” from larger triangles to cut smaller triangles also helped reduce waste and proved to be essential for cutting enough of the light-coloured triangles.  I almost ran into trouble when piecing the final strip when I realised that I was one medium-sized light triangle short and didn’t have a large enough piece of the light-coloured fabrics left to cut more.  I told myself that, if necessary, I would replace it with a medium-coloured triangle, but in the event I found that I had an extra dark triangle the right size, so I substituted that instead.  At least with a pattern like this, such antics go pretty much unnoticed!  :D  I also came up a bit short on small light and dark triangles, but had more enough scraps left to be able to cut extras with no trouble.  So I can’t count, but it all worked out ok anyway!  :p

Quilting thoughts

So, feathers?  Feathers.  Despite the fact that I have never quilted a feather in my life and I still haven’t really mastered FMQ on the Pfaff.  Yay.  This may well be time to bust out the water-erase fabric pen I bought, if only I can remember where I put it!

Quilting threads

Aurifil 50/2, YLI Soft Touch 60/2, The Bottom Line 60

My Aurifil thread arrived, along with some YLI Soft Touch and some Superior Bottom Line and a ridiculous variety of different types and sizes of needles:Machine needles for quilting

Somewhere in here there must be a combination that will work for me!  I’m pleased with the colour of Aurifil I chose – it’s called Silver and proved to be a really nice soft grey with a hint of blue, perfect for a frosty look.  If Aurifil proves to work well for me, I may pick up their thread shade card – it’s horrible playing “guess the real colour” on a computer screen.  :/  I picked grey for the other two as well so that they have the potential to blend with a decent range of colours, I hope.  The site I bought these from, New Threads, has a really useful-looking page of advice on choosing the right needle to match the task and the thread, and I shall be using the suggestions in my experiments.

Additionally, I recently discovered that The Cotton Patch run a “Make Friends With Your Pfaff” course that focuses on patchwork and quilting, and the next one is at the end of March (which unfortunately coincides neatly with when we’re likely to move house, but oh well).  It was £45 because I didn’t buy my machine from them, but I suspect it will be money well spent so I signed up for the last available place, and hopefully they can help me see where I’m going wrong with my machine and give me some tips on making the most of it.  In the meantime, I’m going to Pfaff about with a few thread/needle combos and see how I get on.  ;)

Previous posts on this project can be found here:

Linking up with WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced and #CreativeGoodness at QuiltShopGal!

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Test Blocks

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: MarsalaI finally got a chance to test the blocks for my Marsala quilt, and I am extremely pleased to discover that they work!spice_0303_1

Excuse the somewhat random fabric selection, I basically rummaged through my stash and pulled out whatever I could find that I had a good amount of and didn’t mind using up.  (Though I think it could have been MUCH worse!)

spice_0303_2The large block is a rather giant 24.5″ square; each sub-block in it is 12.5″ square.

spice_0303_3The small block is exactly 1/4 the size of the large block, weighing in at a svelte 12.5″ square (6.5″ sub-blocks).

In terms of piecing, it’s all pretty straightforward (although I did have a Special moment when doing the smaller version where I sewed the wrong corners onto four identical units and had to re-cut and re-do them).  The larger one is much easier in terms of handling to put together, and has more tolerance of error, whereas the smaller one is a little more fiddly and offers less wriggle room for mistakes.  Right now I’m not sure which I prefer, though I’m leaning towards the larger version.

Another consideration is the fact that I have TWO Marsala-coloured fabrics, which I am trying to figure out how to best combine in the blocks:

Certainly, if I want to do any curved piecing, I would be much better off making the larger block!  Of these examples, I quite like option 1 or option 3/4.

Lastly, I need to consider quilt size.  If I choose the big block, my quilt is likely to end up being ~72″ square (three blocks wide, three blocks long), but I’m less sure about the size I’d want to make if I choose the small block.  And borders?  Do I want borders?  I don’t know!

Read more about the 2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge at On the Windy Side and play crafts.  :)

Linking up with the Fresh Sewing Day at Lily’s Quilts!