Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Aussie, mint-y, Grinch-y, chocolate-y Christmas!

I have already gifted almost everything I have made this year, so it's safe to do a blog post!

This apron made from a panel from Spotlight should have arrived at my Dad and Step Mom's house near San Francisco, California. A little bit of Australia for them for Christmas!

To share a weekly ritual I've been doing this year with some of my friends and family, I made them some foot scrub goodie bags.

I sewed draw string bags using one of my favourite prints in Denyse Schmidt's DS Quilts Collection for Fabric Traditions line available at Spotlight. Into each went a jar of homemade foot scrub (epsom salts, spearmint and lavender oils as well as dried lavender), a foot emery board or pumice stone, a small bottle of The Body Shop's Peppermint Cooling Foot Lotion and some chammomile tea bags! And of course, a tub each to soak in!

I made cloth Christmas cards from a gorgeous Laurel Burch Holiday Celebrations panel.

While our families are sleeping, I hope we can all bliss out together every week watching some iView or reading a book, knowing that across Queensland there are other mummas taking some time out for ourselves. Join us!

Last week was stocking-mania, with sixteen Christmas stockings whipped up over a couple of days for the many kids we caught up with. Some were out of a panel from Spotlight.

The rest from various Christmas fabrics including a gorgeous one I picked up from Voodoo Rabbit called Holiday Happy Little Santa by Happy Zombie for Lecien.

I spied this How the Grinch Stole Christmas panel at the Craft and Quilt Fair. My youngest daughter Mia loves the film. I finally made it up into bunting yesterday morning, with the help of a free pattern I received in a Voodoo Rabbit newsletter. You can buy the panel from them here.

I also made a batch of my favourite brownies to share amongst friends. I tried to convert it to the Thermomix, but having done so, I reckon this one is easier to make with the old electric beaters. For those who have drooled over these in the past - I found the recipe online! Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies from taste.com.au

I'm on the home stretch now, with my last project hopefully being whipped up tomorrow along with shopping and packing and a zillion other things before we start our Christmas holidays.

Merry Christmas to you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

17th quilt for a 17th birthday

The Tempest Quilt pattern by Cherry House Quilts is a PDF pattern available here for only US$9. The idea behind the stunning design is to use solid fabrics in two colourways, one for the main part of the blocks and one for the accents. This is the design as on the pattern cover:

Cherry House Quilts also have a great colour chart "with the exact Kona Solids colors you will need to create The Tempest in seven different options". It helped inspire me to see how I could feature the colours in my nephew's bedroom in their new house, as secretly posted to me on this sheet from his Mum.

Using my friend's invaluable Kona Solids Colour Card (I want!) which has one inch swatches of each of the 220 fabrics in the range, I was able to match up greys and browns for the main colour. For the accents I chose black, two different reds, sky blue, white and ivory.

Based on range and price, I purchased the Kona Solids fabrics from Hancocks of Paducah and Fat Quarter Shop.

The pattern is very simple, featuring strip piecing. All cut and ready to piece:

Blocks made and laid out, ready to sew into rows:

This is the largest quilt I have made so I got it quilted with a modern geometric pattern by Barb Cowan of The Quilt Connection here in Brisbane. It's the second time I've had a quilt quilted by Barb (the first was this one for my friend's daughter). It's a joy to work with her.


It turns out this is the seventeenth quilt I have made since I started quiltmaking in May 2009. You can see a gallery of all of them here on my Flickr page. Sweet then, that it's for my nephew's seventeenth birthday!

Stitched into it is lots of good luck for his final year of school and hopes for his future as he blossoms into a wonderful young man.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I heart my new/old Singer

Back in June I blogged about the discovery of my MIL's Singer 306k hidden deep in her garage. My MIL was given it by her mother here in Brisbane in 1954 when she was fifteen. It was made in the Singer factory in Clydebank, Glasgow in Scotland. She has very generously passed it on to me.

I believe Sewco don't generally recondition old machines as they take so much time. However their sewing machine technician Gareth kindly agreed to bring mine up to working order, for which I am so grateful! It was a big job, with his repair report listing the following work performed:

Dismantle complete machine, remove all corrosion from moving parts and main shafts, unseize stitch length and feed mechanisms, reassemble hook unit, service, retime and retension throughout, reset timings, check, clean, oil and retest, sew test/run.

We hadn't been able to find the accessories which came with it including the foot pedal but Gareth was kindly able to source me one.

I picked it up from Sewco back in October in all it's shining glory. The transformation really was stunning.

I was a bit daunted to jump in! So first I downloaded a copy of it's manual, cleaned up it's matching table and got some spare needles and bobbins.

I finally took it for a test run last weekend, making a Christmas tree skirt out of a panel from Spotlight.

I am just in LOVE with the machine's stitch, it's so straight and perfect. The sound of the motor is amazing.

I can't wait to use this beautiful machine some more.

Now I've got the bug for old machines, I've got my heart set on getting a Singer treadle. I would love this model. The beautiful artwork reminds me of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs (one of my favourite artists). Everyone needs to collect something, right?! Please Santa, I've been so good this year!!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Echino peg bag

Our poor old peg bag was looking a bit tired and ripped - held together by a peg! So at my hubby's request I whipped up a new one, using a gorgeous linen fabric (Birds & Blooms, Echino by Kokka).

I get such a kick out of using something every day that is bright, happy and handmade by me. It's got me thinking I want more of that feeling when I look around the house. So my goal for AFTER the Christmas crafting craziness is to make some goodies like cushions, a new curtain for the bathroom and some rag rugs for the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Farewell from Down Under

Our neighbours of three years, a lovely young couple called Karen & Eric, are relocating back to San Diego, USA. We are very sad to see them go. As a goodbye present and reminder of their time in Oz, I wanted to make them a wall hanging featuring stunning fabrics designed by Australian Aboriginal artists.

I think most fabrics I chose, if not all, are produced by M&S Textiles. I bought them as fat quarters from several different shops at the Craft and Quilt Fair. I've been wanting to make a project featuring these special fabrics since seeing M&S' ads in Down Under Quilts magazine, and also seeing their vivid, gorgeous designs in person recently in the patchwork shop Quiltsmith in Sydney. M&S' Australian Aboriginal fabrics feature evocative names - some of those I used included Bush Sultana, Dreamtime Flowers, Spirit Circles and Women Searching. You can see the whole collection here.

As I have mentioned, I normally favour making projects based on others' designs, so creating this was a bit of a stretch and lots of fun! Luckily M&S' website also features several free quilt/wall hanging designs which I found really inspiring.

I paired the Aboriginal designs with Kona solids and incorporated a panel featuring Australian animals called "Awesome Australia" by Nutex.

Karen and my girls - we'll miss you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear Ma

My lovely Mum had her birthday recently, and it was another excuse to shower her with stitched love!

THIS is what sewing is all about for me! Love and joy through giving!!!!

The bag was Anna Maria Horner's Ruthie clutch, which I've made once before.

The skirt was Amy Butler's Apron Panel from her Barcelona Skirt pattern. I have previously made it for mum, but shortened it this time.

Happy birthday darling Mum! I love you so much.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bursting my seams with pride

ZOMG, I have been proud of everything I have made over the last few years, but after making my latest project, well I was fit to burst my seams with pride! (Nod to the GORGEOUS fabric Home Sewing is Easy by Alexander Henry - I picked up a fat quarter of it from Voodoo Rabbit at the recent Craft and Quilt Fair).

I was lucky enough to get a Janome 644D overlocker for my birthday.

I've been so excited AND pretty nervous about cranking it up (visions of overlocking my fingers). With some encouragement from a friend, last weekend I finally seized the day and whipped up some leggings for the girls. They ADORE leggings, with or without skirts, wearing them every day in lieu of the zillions of dresses and shorts in their wardrobes. They get holes in the knees, so I was keen to make some myself.

I used the Kwik Sew Girls Tunics and Leggings pattern (3476) for Lily's and Kwik Sew Toddlers Tunics, Leggings & Shorts (2596) for Mia's.

What a buzz!! I can't wait to do more overlocking projects, these were so quick and easy.

The girls wearing their new leggings, getting into the Halloween spirit...(note pre-carved pumpkin)...

All ready for trick or treating...

I've also finally gifted the pink & blue "scissors" fabric in the photo below to my friend Anna for her birthday, along with everything she needs to make a fab skirt from the book Sew What! Skirts - 15 Simple Styles You can Make by Francesca DenHartog. Which means I can share some of what I bought on a recent trip to Sydney. The fabrics on the left are my Liberty loves! I also bought Kids' Crafternoon: Sewing edited by Kathreen Ricketson and a gorgeous Japanese kids pattern book with who appears to be a slightly older Mia on the cover. I can't share the name as it's all in Japanese! It is by Kanon, if that helps.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dread hat

Just as Summer-like heat is starting to creep in to my West-facing sewing room, I bring you my most recent knitting project! I tried to think of the right word to describe - tam, beanie, hat, tube? Not sure, but come next Winter I think it'll do the job of keeping my head warm and my dreads out of my face!

I used a pattern called Brown and blue hat from Jane Brocket's book The Gentle Art of Knitting.

I love Jane's books which also include The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making and my favourite The Gentle Art of Domesticity.

I started this project in my final knitting class at Tangled Yarns. I used a gorgeous rich red Peruvian Highland wool (100g ball of Cascade 220 in Ruby by Cascade Yarns).

It's meant to close at the top like a beanie, but I was running out of wool. It sat unfinished for weeks while I sewed up a storm. In the end I left off the last seventeen rows and sewed up the main seam, leaving it an open "tube". Probably simpler in the end, as I would have found it tricky to adapt the pattern to accommodate my dreads!

Needless to say it didn't stay on for long! It is now nestled in my Winter woollies drawer waiting for next year!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Listen: A Quilt

Inspiration for the name of my latest quilt came from a song I heard at a Nia class last year, the track "Listen" by Goddess Alchemy Project's from their album “Frequencies of the Motherland”.

From their website:
The Goddess Alchemy Project is an independent arts collective...The music offered by The Goddess Alchemy Project is one key aspect within the totality of their work, which also includes clothing design, event production, international solidarity work with indigenous peoples, youth service, arts empowerment education, and other forms of community outreach.

Inspiration for the quilt itself came from the woman it was made for, my dear friend Nic. A very special spirit, I am continually inspired by her mindfulness and compassion as a parent, partner and community-minded woman. In planning to make a quilt for Nic's 40th birthday, I wanted every stitch to be a wish of fulfilled needs for her during the next 40 years of her life and beyond – fun, new beginnings and adventure.

A few months back Nic mentioned a book on mandala quilts, saying that the book made her want to quilt...one day! I looked further afield and found the book "Kaleidoscope ABCs: 14 Step-by-Step Patterns" by Marti Michell.

This pattern I chose, the "60 Degree Kaleidoscope Quilt", features 23 six-sided blocks, each different but all cut from the SAME fabric! The wonderful Annie at Sewco talked me through the pattern and helped me use Marti's Michell's Magic Mirror to audition different fabrics. This was FUN! Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler fabrics made amazing kaleidoscopes, but when I tried it out on Laurel Burch's Celestial Dreams, I knew I'd found the one:

The fabric spoke to me of Nic's needs which are met when connecting with her circle of women – love, support, empathy and fun. It also spoke to me of her strong connection with the earth, sea, sun, moon and stars. Visit Laurel's website to find out more about this amazing artist, who I discovered sadly passed away in 2007.

Annie explained that this fabric has a 60cm repeat. I'd need six of these repeats, meaning a minimum of 3.6m. Most quilts in the book use Marti's Kaleido-Ruler, but the "60 Degree Kaleidoscope Quilt" uses either a Marti Michell Equilateral (60 degree) Triangle Ruler or the pattern included in the book (which I traced and made into a plastic template). After carefully pinning the 6 repeats together (each 60cm wide), I used my rotary cutter to cut six at once, creating these little piles:

It was SUCH a treat spreading them out into their kaleidoscopes:

Placed with their navy background triangles (glow in the dark stars!):

The finished quilt, with borders & binding:

I quilted it in the ditch using a navy, grey and blue variegated thread. I didn't want the quilting to stand out. Instead I wanted to allow the fabric itself to sing.

Detail of the blocks:

So that she could see what the design of the original uncut fabric looked like, I made Nic a cushion cover & pillow:

Listen for the love in this quilt from me to you, dear friend.