Sunday, March 1, 2015

FMQ - my mark out of 10!

I went searching for something on the out-of-reach top shelf in my craft room last week,  I didn't discover any hidden, long-forgotten treasures, but I did find a quilt which I was using last year to practise free-motion quilting. It has 30 blocks and I had quilted six or seven then put it up on that top shelf. It hasn't been looked at for eight or nine months.

All the projects that I am working on at the moment have heaps of hand-stitching which I like to do in my recliner at night in front of the TV. Apart from school fund-raiser projects, I didn't really have anything much that I could stitch on the machine during the day.  So this quilt was a good find and I decided to attack FMQ again! 

We are not great mates, FMQ and I. My theory is that some people have it and others just don't ... and I am definitely in the latter category. I send off my magazine quilts to have them professionally quilted.  I will tackle something that looks good with straight-line quilting, but I balk every time if free-motion quilting is required. The problem is that there is often a project that needs just a little bit of FMQ, so it's about time I conquered it!

Everyone says to start with stipple quilting as that is the easiest.  Well, guess what, it isn't for me! I have tried basic stippling and all sorts of variations and they just do not flow. I come up with a jerky mess which I would give 1 out of 10. I'm probably being generous to myself and a fairer assessment would be a half mark!

After watching lessons by expert tutors and trying shells, spirals, and feathers, I have realised that I am just not a "traveller". I find it impossible to travel back exactly on what I've stitched to get to the next section and travelling in long flowing stipples and loops is not my forte. What I have discovered is that I can sort of do "pivot" quilting, where little or no travelling is required. I tried quilting hearts and my mark shot up to 4 out of 10:

I got really adventurous and decided to tackle some pebbles:

The mark dropped back to 3 out of 10 as there was a teeny bit of travelling to do, but I slowed down on the next attempt and got my mark back up to a 4.

So I have made my decision - forget everything else FMQ and concentrate on pivot designs. I have a lot more blocks to quilt so I'm hoping to get up to a pass mark (or maybe even better!) by the time I have finished!
 On top of the knowledge that my FMQ skills are so poor, I have come to the realization that my piecing skills leave a lot to be desired too!  I am finding the gorgeous Jinny Beyer free BOM quilt design to be really quite challenging.

I haven't had too much trouble in the past with 45 and 90 degree points, but all the acute angles in this third block required plenty of use of the seam ripper!:

After the third attempt and being almost in the situation where I would have to recut all the pieces and start again, the light-bulb moment came when I reread the instructions: Transfer the dots to the wrong side of your patches to assist you in matching your patches and sewing accurately. What a difference it makes, when you follow the instructions!!! This quilt is really going to be a great learning experience.

Back in my comfort zone, I am happily stitching a new design which puts a smile on my face every time I pick it up!

I hope you have a smile on your face this week, too.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Rhythm of Life

The rhythm of life has gone on with with a steady (if not powerful) beat for me this week. It wasn't quite a normal week, but the rhythm was there!

Life has so many compartments, doesn't it? I am thankful for generally good health. I had my eyes tested and was surprised to learn that my eyes hadn't changed in two years. The explanation as to why I can't see as well is that I have a cataract forming. I was happy that there is no macular degeneration or glaucoma and for the fact that the cataract won't need attention for a year or so. I also had my hearing tested, which confirmed what my family keep telling me - that I am fairly deaf!!!

The Home rhythm was a bit interrupted with the threat of a Category 5 Cyclone bearing down on us. We had to move from outdoors anything that could be a flying missile with more than 150 km an hour winds expected - chairs, table, pot plants, etc. In the event we were very thankful that the Cyclone had spent most of its force by the time it got to us. We didn't get the gale-forced winds and were actually quite thankful for the 10 inches of rain that fell in four days.

On the Friends side of life, I had the privilege of playing the organ for my dear friend's funeral. It was a very fitting service for a lovely lady. 

 I love keeping in touch with Family via Skype where you can not only hear but SEE your loved ones and I enjoyed a few calls this week. A request from daughter-in-law for some goods for the school Easter fund-raiser had me digging in my brights box to make a couple of cushions. One is complete:

 and another one on the way: 

In the Craft compartment, I packaged two projects to send off to magazine editors:

What is it about roses that sends my heart into a spin?:

Something else that "put the tingle in the fingers" as well as the heart, was a good look at the Craftsy free Block of the Month quilt for 2015:


It is by Jinny Beyer and is absolutely gorgeous. The more I looked at it, the more I wanted to make it! I knew I had drawers full of fabrics just like that because they really are "my" colours. Out came all the blues, purples and teals and an hour or so of juggling them all around and I had enough fabric to make the quilt top, with only being short on one colour, the gold. I was able to complete the first block and love how it looks:

Now I'm eagerly waiting for the gold fabric which I have ordered so that I can 
make the February blocks. It's hard to believe this beautiful pattern, along with 14 video lessons, is all free.  The link is here in case you want to join in too. I'm expecting to learn lots and improve my piecing skills throughout the year.

May the rhythm of life beat well for you this week and include lots of stitching!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Free Block of the Month Wall Quilt - Pattern 2

I have Block 2 in the free Keys to Contentment wall quilt for you today. As always, it is a super-practical bit of advice from the Bible:

Do not let the sun set while you are still angry.

I know a family where one day many years ago, something was said in a ‘throwaway’ comment and the daughter took offence. She let the sun set while she will still angry, and now years later, she still has not spoken to nor visited her parents ever again. Her children never see their grandparents. How sad this situation is. It could have been talked about, apologised and forgiven and the relationship restored immediately. If only she had taken this practical advice from the Word of God and not let the sun set on her anger.

I love the cute little keys that I was able to find to sew onto these blocks:

You can download the pattern here.

A sweet blog friend contacted me about the stem-stitching on the wording of these blocks. Some of the letters have fairly tight curves and just using one thread means that the stitches cave in a bit. The first solution is 

Feel free to change to backstitch!
The second is to take very tiny stitches around the curves.
The third is to couch the stitches down as you go around the tight corners.

I hope that helps if you are finding that particular stitching a bit difficult. 

I am happy to say that I now have my sewing machine back ... and working properly! The technician admitted he hadn't plugged something back in properly!

While I waited for Bernice Bernina to come home, I added a few more of my patterns to my Craftsy store:

Annie's Choice is one of my favourite quilt blocks and I love it in yellow and black: 

You can find the pattern for Annie's Favourite bag here.

Coral's gift Bedrunner and Cushion is a very special project to me. My dear friend, Coral, gave me lots of her beautiful quilting fabrics when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sadly, yet happily, Coral went home to be with Jesus whom she loved, just yesterday.

Coral's Gift Bedrunner and Cushion pattern available here.

Then there's Needle in a Haystack Satchel. I'm very fond of this whimsical design:

Satchel pattern available here.

You might remember in my last blog post my trial-run making Plum Jam in the Breadmaker. Well, this week it was time to try making marmalade. What a difference to a couple of hours watching and stirring it on the stove. Ingredients in, press the jam button, and:

The flavour is amazing and I am now totally hooked and can't imagine making jam the old way ever again!

I think I did reasonably well surviving without my machine, (I'm seriously thinking of buying a 'basic' to tide me over in the future) but I will be very glad to play catch-up now with all the bits and pieces waiting for me!

Happy stitching,

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Deja Vu! It's happened again!

I'm trying to learn lessons in dealing with frustrations at the moment!  My sewing machine arrived back late Thursday. On Friday I started using it, only to find my machine now has problems. It went to the technician in perfect condition, only needing its annual 'grease 'n' oil change'. $149 later, it now is acting like a chaff-cutter, so my machine is no longer under its pretty cover in my sewing room:

It is such a nuisance having to take it back - just getting it there is a big enough problem, without the pain of being without it again. It might be time to try to find a new technician. It's Deja Vu - the same thing happened last year when I had to take my machine back because it had not been serviced correctly! 

And wouldn't you know it, guess which block I am stitching of the Keys to Contentment quilt at the moment!?!:

I am consciously making an effort to thank God for this circumstance. I can't say I actually feel 'thankful' yet, but I'm working on it! I am reminding myself that in His bigger plan, it's all working for good!

I've been trying to spend my 'time without machine' usefully and I've uploaded a couple of my recent designs to my pattern store.

The Huggles cot quilt featuring twelve iconic and unique Australian animals:

and the very quick-to-make Snug Hug Mug Cosy and Coaster:

Then there's the All Kinds of Weather cushion 
which is one of my favourite designs. It has a beautiful saying and the ruched flowers and double Prairie Points give the cushion some lovely texture:

Another job I have done in my 'time without machine' is preparing all the pieces for a sweet little pincushion. I can't show you that one yet but I'll share the one below with you. I love making pincushions, so when I was asked to design one in the shape of a sewing machine, there was a little joy dance happening. I had so much fun making this:

I was really happy with everything about this project - sweet embroidery on the felt flowers, the cutest little button centres, scallops (one can never have two many scallops) and the perfect design to use that big purple button that has been sitting in the cupboard for three or four years.

Here it is on the cover of Country Threads magazine, Vol 16:1:

and on its page inside:

If you can't obtain the magazine, don't worry as I plan to make the pattern available in my store in a few weeks.

Here's something else I have done in my 'time without machine' - preserved a case of plums.

There wasn't quite enough to fill an eighth bottle, so making plum jam was the obvious thing to do with the leftovers. However, I had had enough of standing on my feet for hours in the kitchen doing the preserving, so I had a brainwave. My breadmaker has a Jam cycle on it which I have never used. A kilo of plums wasn't going to be a huge loss if it didn't turn out, so in went the plums, sugar and pectin, on went the button, and I went and put my feet up!  An hour or so later, out came five jars of the most delicious plum jam. I'm onto a winner!

 I make our own marmalade every 4 or 5 weeks - been doing it for decades - and guess what is going to happen to the next batch! I'll let you know whether it is successful or not.

I have a new embroidery design swimming around in my head so putting that on paper is my next 'time without machine' job. Hopefully I won't get too far with the needle and thread before I can say that my machine is happily back home working again!

Have a great week.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What do you do when your machine is having its annual checkup?

My heart always sinks when I hear those dreaded words, "Your machine should be ready in about ten days."  How can I cope with being parted from my Bernina for such a long time while it has its annual service?

It's really easy for those ten long days to just disappear into myriads of Facebook readings, Pinterest browsings, and idly moving the computer mouse, and before I know it, I have achieved absolutely nothing in the time - not good for my well-being as I like to be productive!

So what do I have to show for my week? Sewing binding down is always a good hand-stitching job and I'm happy to say that a new table runner is completed.

Our bed has been broken for a year or so and we're always wondering when the day will come that it will collapse completely! Well, that day isn't going to come, because we have bought a new one.  For health reasons, we have to have our head raised, so we have decided on an electric adjustable bed. We had some in-home demonstrations, haggled about the price, weighed up the pros and cons, and now our new bed is currently being made at the factory.

Mangoes are in plentiful supply at the moment which means they are a good price for buying bulk quantities. We love eating them fresh of course, but the season is so short and by preserving them we can enjoy the delicious taste throughout the year ... and it is a good job for when you don't have a sewing machine! Ten weeks of mangoes on our breakfast cereal coming up:

Some of our curtains are starting to disintegrate, so it was time to choose fabric for new ones. I've had fun with layers of fabric samples draped over the furniture, rejecting some, narrowing down the choice and deciding on just the right fabric. For the first time in 48 years, I am not making my own curtains! When I envisaged 13 metres of fabric draped all over the floor, trying to measure, cut, join, stitch, pleat, hem, (and that is for just one curtain), I decided I really was not interested! I would much rather make a quilt or a bag or a wall-hanging! My lovely curtain man is coming on Monday to do a final measure and I am very happy to let his girls do the rest!

What else is there to do when you don't have a sewing machine than to draw up a new design? That was productive moving of the computer mouse:

Of course I've been stitching another Keys to Contentment block - look out for Block 2 in the third week of the month.

So how will I fill in the rest of my ten days?  Do some paperwork - there's always plenty of that to do. I'd also like to prepare some more of my designs for sale in my Craftsy store, start stitching my new design, preserve a case of plums, and I suppose I had better write up the pattern for my table runner!

Happy stitching!