Friday, January 25, 2013

block 3

The new block is made, I had sooo much trouble with it! A couple of the fabrics were silky, and needed interfacing with light Vilene. I kept getting mixed up and cutting the shapes out in reverse. Grrr!

All colours from the print in the top LH corner, except the centre, which is actually greenish gold. I'll work the bird block first, as usual, then consider what to add.

When I'm "considering" I often look through some of my favourite books -

 Allie Aller's book is always inspiring

and Marsha Michler's books are a goldmine of ideas and useful diagrams.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

a bird, a bow and a butterfly

The second block is finished! It turned out well, I think, though maybe a bit lacking in texture...

Some details -

The bow was worked in one of Cottage Garden's yummy hand-dyed threads. The patch looked a bit bare when I'd finished, but I found some iridescent beads to match the thread, and scattered them around.

This patch is a Nile green silk, overlaid with a scrap of wide lace edging, which I gussied up with beads and tiny artificial flowers. I have a box full of fake flowers; these were white before I tinted them with acrylic paint.
The patch above is a sample of fine wool, which inspired the colour scheme for the block.

Deep peach linen, adorned with flowers in faux buttonhole stitch. I'm not going to show you a close-up of the butterfly patch, because I'm none too pleased with it :-(

The bird looks happy in her bower, doesn't she? the flowers are ombre ribbon, and the leaves are aqua silk, backed with light Vilene (which hopefully will prevent them from fraying.)

So there you have it, two blocks done, ten to go!
I'm thinking maybe purples for the next one...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

tools of the trade

There's a few things that make life easier for the embroiderer -

an assortment of hoops, invaluable to keeep your work from puckering. I resisted using a hoop for a long time, but I'm used to them now, and my work stays nice and flat. These are 4", 6" and 10". What's that pen thingy, you ask?

It's a Frixion pen, for marking designs on your work. Supposedly, if you rub the marks with the other (grey) end of the pen, the marks disappear. Doesn't work very well. But apply heat and

Voila! all gone! Depending on the colour of your fabric, there may be a faint white line left, but not noticeable enough to worry about. This is a wonderful tool, especially if you change your mind about something :-) Someone told me the pink marks come back if the fabric is chilled, so I experimented by putting this piece in the freezer for 10 minutes. The pink lines returned, but faintly, and another touch with the iron removed them.

Another, often overlooked marking tool is your sewing machine. Just stitch beside the seam line, and use it as a guide for even stitch length.

Oh, and here's the next bird.

Monday, January 14, 2013

block 2

I was in the mood for something a bit warmer this time, and I had this tiny scrap of plaid fabric -

More prints in this block than I would normally use, but they just went so well together.

The fun part, choosing threads and trims. I wonder how this one will turn out?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

ta da!

The first block is finished! There were several challenges to overcome; the lemon section was a bit too light, the butterfly fabric a bit too dark. Both had to be balanced in other sections of the block.

Those little orange sequins sure came in handy!

Lemon lace balances out the bird background

Don't know where the lavendar and pink seam treatment came from, but it seems to work, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

slow progress, and a bargain!

The new and improved parakeet is finished, and a rather gorgeous butterfly. Still a long way to go - I seem to spend more time staring thoughtfully at the block, and flipping through embroidery books, than I do on actual stitching.

The other day I noticed that the local discount shop has beads at half-price, so I invested in a few packets -

Just $1 per packet

I got these too 

Those little sequin shapes are bound to come in handy!

Friday, January 4, 2013

back to the drawing board

Daughter Janet called in yesterday, and I showed her my first crazy block. She admired the bird, and then asked "are they all going to be this bright?" Hmmm....

When she left, I took another look at the block. Liz wants light, bright pastel colours, but maybe not all in the one block?

I already knew that an analogous colour scheme works well - as in these two experimental blocks.

Could I perhaps shade the blocks across the quilt to create a colourwash effect?
 This morning I got out the textas and experimented, and came up with this -

Then I made a new block in lemon, lime, green and aqua. Much better!

 Don't expect much progress for the next few days, though, as we are in the grip of a heat wave - 39C today, and more to come. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

a pretty parakeet

When I was searching for birds to use on my quilt, I discovered the Tuckfields Australian bird cards, which used to come in packets of Tynee Tips tea. These pretty cards are now highly collectible.

I considered using some of them for the quilt, but I always find photos printed on fabric a bit plasticky, so I settled for embroidered images - a bit of a challenge at this scale - and plan to depict the birds with a bit of greenery or flora, like the originals.

Here's the block so far; I wanted to work the bird first, not much point lavishing time on embellishment unless the bird is right. I've added a couple of pieces of trim, too.

A close-up of the bird, which may possibly be some kind of Scarlet-breasted Parakeet. I may yet add some floral details- I'll see how it looks when I've done the surrounding seams. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

a new beginning

New Year's Day is a time for beginnings - a new blog, and a new crazy quilt.

I'm making a crazy wall quilt for my daughter. This will be the third small quilt in a series of four, one for each of my daughters. You can read more about this project and its origins over in the sidebar.

This quilt has been weeks in the planning, with much experimentation,  and several false starts.


  Liz and partner David had requested birds - David is a keen birdwatcher on their small country property. Not necessarily real birds, they stressed; imaginary ones would be fine.

At first I planned to applique the birds in Baltimore album style, with a crazy pieced border. It took weeks to design the blocks, but I couldn't make it work.


Needleturn applique is not my forte, and machine applique looked clumsy - it will only be a small quilt, and the scale was wrong.

So I returned to what I do best - crazy quilting. Another experiment showed that my bird designs could be successfully reduced and embroidered, as a focal point of each crazy block.

 I decided on 6.5" blocks, twelve in all, set 3 across and 4 down. (Not sure about the border yet.) The blocks were drawn up and adjusted to fit a bird more or less in the centre of each, and this morning I was ready to begin.

 I chose some fabrics, and traced the block onto the foundation fabric. (These blocks will all be foundation pieced.)

And here's the complete 'naked' block, ready for embellishing with embroidery, lace, ribbon, and all the 'doodads' so beloved of crazy quilters.

But first, I fused some lightweight Vilene to the back of the block, to keep it from distorting as I stitch. Now, let the fun begin!