Saturday, 28 April 2018

Happy Easter - been and gone (ooppss!)

Term 1 was bound to be a busy term workwise, and with the convenience and ease of posting to IG there is nothing to show for on my blog :( I actually got quite a bit done, here is my progress against my New Year's resolutions:

  • Quilt and finish Vintage Quilt Revival - nope, done nothing with it yet.
  • Quilt and finish Metro Rings: I'm toying with the idea of calling this Learning from Mistakes because by all means it is certainly not perfect. However, it is starting to take shape with custom quilting (who would have guessed lol):
I have since changed the design for the green squares, but that needs some further work still. I still need inspiration to strike for the large white background spaces.
  • Ruler quilting on my Pfaff: This has continued to frustrate me, despite buying the Pfaff extension table; somehow I thought this would help. However, at the end of March I was offered a Sweet Sixteen demo machine with very low stitch count. More to this below...
  • Use left-over blocks for a new project: I don't know what it is, but at the moment plus blocks keep on calling me. Here is one I finished earlier; again I used the piped binding to finish this quilt. I cut it much narrower this time, 1 1/2" for the green piping, and just 1 1/4" for the grey binding. While I still want to practise to get it perfect, I'm much happier with this result.
  • Arty quilt for DH: Well, he still hasn't made up his mind on that one, but after I kept on complaining about the very ugly interesting armchair he bought second-hand, he suggested I could make a quilt to cover it. He liked the combination of fabrics in Shades of Grey, so I pulled out my considerable collection of grey, black, white and reds and joined the #berninazenchicqal:
Inspired by the Throwing pattern I wanted my colours to move from dark to light. With the help of Ombre and Hatch both by Timeless Treasures as backgrounds I might even manage to tie in the odd stray cream that snuck into the mix. 
What else have I been doing?

I had a small collection of mini-charms, started with a pack I won at retreat with the Brisbane MQG. They had been pulled out, drooled over, sorted, put away again multiple times (no mini-charms were hurt during this process lol). In January I finally jumped in and turned them into a runner for the bottom of my bed - or alternatively the (extended) dining table. To my mind it looks like a cityscape, with different height houses and towers next to each other - quite different to how we live. The colours are more subdued than what I normally use, the whole process of 'put it together and see what happens' is so different to what I normally do (just ask Suz, I'm sure I must drive her nuts with my planning sizes etc. all out beforehand), and I use Madeira Polyneon to quilt (organic straight lines) - hence the working title Unlike me or maybe even Not at all like me! I still like it, and eventually it will get finished and used :)
On this photo it almost looks like a traffic light, or a flower?

Criss Cross Applesauce is a pattern by Melissa Corry from Happy Quilting. It immediately appealed to me, and with two babies due at work before the end of the year, a few of these blocks should work nicely and tame the stash. Originally I hoped for 6 blocks (per quilt), but I don't have enough of the background for one of them, so 4 blocks and some extra rows top and / or bottom should work. I'm left with a whole lot of cut off triangles, so I'm incorporating them into a row of zig zag as well. Looks much better in real life than on the photo:)

And then there is the Sweet Sixteen!!! When oldest DS moved to university in February, youngest DS was moved out of the Sewing Room into oldest DS' room. The uni student now has the smallest bedroom in the house, but then he is only here for a few months a year now. Therefore the Sewing Room (and hubby's office) got rearranged:
Unnamed as yet... The table is a little higher than both the bookshelf on the left and the table on the right, but I will eventually rectify this.  Obviously also used as dumping ground when needed lol

My current setup: S16 on the left, Pfaff QE 4.0 on the right, with the butcher block in the middle acting as cutting station and/or holding the small ironing board. The Singer 201K is currently at the other end of the house in the hallway for 'decoration'.
The Sweet Sixteen works very well for me. It had only 66000 stitches, so was barely used. As per the recommendation from the shop, I got practising with a real quilt (Always has my back - further up). While it feels a little counter-intuitive when you come from fmq on a DSM, fast stitches and slowing moving of the quilt result in very nice stitches. However, the machine itself doesn't make one a good quilter; years of practise on my DSM have helped immensely, otherwise I doubt I could just sit down and complete a single quilt in a couple of hours like I did (admittedly it was a simple, generous stipple). There are a few things I have to get used to, the wheel is hard to reach, so where normally I would have reversed the needle back onto the line manually, it took me a couple of week to realise there was a wheel, where it was and how to reach it (a struggle even with my long arms). I absolutely love that the machine will go in any direction and not skip stitches!

The shop also gave me the HandiVersa tool as I told them I wanted to get into ruler quilting. Interestingly, this is harder than I had expected. For some reason, some machines (incl. mine) don't sit flush in their table. According to other quilters on FB, HandiQuilter supplies alternative rubber feet for under the machine free of charge. I have contacted the shop owner and she will find out how to get these for me.
About 3/16" between the top of the table and the top of the stitchplate.
You can clearly see the large gap between the ruler and the table.
Lastly, here is a very different artwork, on display at my work, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. In New Zealand, the 25th April is Anzac Day, commemorating soldiers and veterans on the anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. It is very common to wear poppies for this occasion, and as many school classes do, we wanted children in our Holiday Programme to create their own poppies. During our discussions, the idea was born to incorporate a korowai, a particular Māori cloak worn by rangatira (chiefs or persons of high rank), to incorporate a reference to the 28th Māori Battalion which fought in WWII and has a special connection to the Treaty Grounds. One of our staff, known as Ocean Pearl, created the korowai from harakeke (flax, belonging to the corduline family), dyed it and mounted it on decorated canvas. The children (and their families) crafted and attached poppies to the canvas on the side. You can see Under the cloak to TÅ«matauenga in Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Staying with the Anzac Day them, middle DS just performed in his first public play "Billy goes to War". Here he is with a group of his co-actors behind the scenes:
The tall young man in the last row on the left... Image Source
Happy Sewing!

Monday, 1 January 2018

Happy New Year!

2017 was a busy year, but overall much more productive and successful than 2016 - onwards and upwards worked a treat.

On the (quilt) blogging front I almost managed to double my meagre 4 posts in 2016 to 7 posts in 2017 (my e-learning blog only had 5 posts oops). I have made some use of Instagram (18 posts) which is very convenient when you just quickly want to get some feedback / want to show off progress or a finished project without needing to write much.

Work was a blast, I really love the mahi (work) and what our team have been able to achieve in 2017 - from no one with any experience in Museum Education whatsoever to 3 teachers who continue to rework and refine programmes and have worked with more than 6500 young people this year - and 2018 is looking even more exciting...

Our boys are growing up so fast; the 'bonus child' has returned home to his family and woke up to this on his first morning:

The oldest DS has finished school (!!!) and is off to university next year. He managed to score himself two scholarships which in combination with the new government's first-year-fees-free policy seriously cut down the amount of money he has to borrow from StudyLink. Middle DS is now starting to pursue his interest in film and television more seriously, it's so cool to see when they realise what approximate direction they want to take in life. The youngest DS is doing well also, still a little off from making any of these serious life decisions but he is proving to us that he can be responsible and think before he acts (a big thing for a 13y old boy!). DH has been in a permanent position since mid year and spent his free time gardening and building / doing repairs around the house. As per usual we celebrated German Christmas on 24 December, this year with 11 people and on the new extension to the deck: 

While we have a had nice summer weather since the beginning of December, it was grey a drizzly over the Christmas holidays and right now it's raining outside! In contrast, this is how we spent Saturday:

On the quilting front I have managed to achieve most of my resolutions from 2017 (which has really surprised me, I'm not one for making and sticking to resolutions lol):
  • Finish Press Start (binding, bury threads)
  • Finish Giant Chevron (quilting, binding, bury threads)
  • Finish Opal Essence (quilting, binding, bury threads): This had been finished with faux piped binding (inspired by Suz) for a little while and but there were still heaps of threads to bury. I finally got my act together and finished it yesterday:
  • Airing out on the line; going over it with the lint roller helped me find a few more threads to bury...
This is what it's meant to look like on the bed.
Close up of the quilting: Straight lines (walking foot) to support the 3D look on the cubes, and fmq pebbles of varying sizes in the dark background. The pebbles helped sort out any excess bulk, too.
And here the back; I tend to quilt with the same thread in the bobbin as on top to avoid tension issues.
I like the finished look of the fauz piped binding though my execution on the back needs some more practise. I prefer narrower binding in general, so I will experiment with this technique more in the future.
  • Complete remaining Vintage Quilt Revival blocks (anything else is a bonus)
  • Piece Metro Rings top (anything else is a bonus) 
  • New litte Plus Block project
  • Something 'arty': I have just picked up my Pohutukawa improv project again.

So here are my resolutions for 2018:
  • Quilt and finish Vintage Quilt Revival.
  • Quilt and finish Metro Rings.
  • Complete, quilt and finish Improv Pohutukawa.
  • Learn how to use rulers for quilting on my Pfaff machine. 
  • Use the remaining blocks from Aniwaniwa - Rainbow in some new project, and / or create something with my charm squares.
  • I have also asked DH to come up with an idea + technique for an arty quilt he has been nagging asking me about for a few years.
Given two of these projects are for my California King sized bed, this should keep me busy, shouldn't it?

Happy Sewing!!!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Washing, washing and yet more washing again...

I had a very fruitful sewing time while the cat was away hubby and two boys were in Europe, but since their return my life seems to revolve around washing, washing and yet more washing every weekend... While spring has officially sprung, the weather is still too wet and / or not reliable enough to dry washing on the rotary line outside, so both clothe horses full of washing are the 'in' look in the Himmelgarten household...

That was just the first half of yesterday...
Not only did the boys bring back photos, souvenirs and memories, they also brought our teenage nephew with them who'll stay with us until the end of the year - yes, I am heavily outnumbered by boys.

My sewing room has become the youngest son's bedroom (nephew is in his old room), so for now I make do with a smaller sewing desk again, out in the family room - not quite as convenient as the sewing room but better than nothing. Purely by fluke I purchased an addition to my sewing gadgets:

A Singer 201K, from approx. 1948/49, after a good clean and lots of oil it's working just fine for piecing
So what have I been up to?

  • Finish Press Start (binding, bury threads)

  • Finish Giant Chevron - done and on my bed (in need of a wash already lol)

  • Pinned up against the bookshelf in the family room
    more details...
    more details again...

    • Finish Giant Chevron (quilting, binding, bury threads): 38 of 40 cubes quilted, and I have decided on large pebbles for the dark background:

    Originally I had wanted to have it to look like a meandering river, but this didn't look right...
    Might no be as clearly a river now, but the pebbles contrast well with the straight lines.

    • Complete remaining Vintage Quilt Revival blocks: I have started piecing the blocks together, 6 rows of 7 blocks each, with 3 1/2" (cut) sashing, and the first two rows are joined. Following +Suz J's example, my horizontal sashing strips are cut to 12 1/2" (block size), with a 3 1/2" square cornerstone in the same colour to  help keep everything lined up and straight. So far so good (with the help of pins:D).
    • Piece Metro Rings top 
    • Plus Block project 
    • 'Arty' Pohutukawa landscape - yet to make more progress
    As I mentioned in my last post, variety keeps me interested and I started & finished two little projects:
    This little triangle "Shades of Grey" (I think that's what I called it?) has winged its way over to Oz to the Brisbane Modern Quilt Guild for an exhibition
    A new little laptop pouch for my colleague & friend

    Sometimes it's a bit frustrating to see such little progress; however, slowly but surely I'll get my resolution list done. How are you doing with any resolutions you made at the start of the year?

    Happy Sewing!

    Sunday, 9 July 2017

    Time just flies when you're having fun!

    It's been almost three months since I last posted - where did that time go??? While work and family continue to keep me busy, I have been quietly working away anyway. However, with a nephew coming to stay with us for 6 months, I gave up my sewing room to youngest DS (so his cousin can move into his room) and eventually got a smaller desk set up in the dining / family area.

    With some of the family away for a European summer holiday, the usual chores around home are much less time consuming than usual so I managed to get through a few things on my to-do list from January:

  • Finish Press Start (binding, bury threads)

  • Finish Giant Chevron is quilted, binding is attached and I am in the process of stitching it down and burying the remaining threads. I've tried to flick back through my blog to find when I first started it, here in this post from January 2014 the inner giant chevron was completed, so it's safe to say I've been working on this for at least 3 1/2 years and it's moved countries twice, so it will need a good scrub before I can declare it truly finished!

  • Finish Opal Essence (quilting, binding, bury threads) - I have quilted 30 of 40 cubes - I can see the end :)

  • Complete remaining Vintage Quilt Revival blocks What do you think? 
  • After lots of shuffling with the help of Suz, this is my final layout.
    I had a little play with Instagram Layout - all 42 blocks, always both /all three versions of a block together. +Suz J 's blocks on the left, then my block(s) to the right [except second set of blocks from the bottom left, I reversed the order by accident]. Isn't it amazing how different so many of them turned out?
    Next step is 3" sashings and borders in cream, I will need backing, and then I have to think some more about quilting...

  • Piece Metro Rings top 

  • Plus Block project is done - turned out very different to how I had imagined it, but I LOVE it!
  • "Aniwaniwa - Rainbow"
    Just some simple straightline quilting, backed by a flannel sheet (after an unsuccessful attempt at using a flat cotton sheet)
  • 'Arty' Pohutukawa landscape - yet to make more progress

  • That leaves me with binding (Giant Chevron), quilting (Opal Essence), improv piecing (Pohutukawa) to get my list of resolutions from January finished. Not bad going, especially in comparison to last year!

    I've finally figured out that I need to have a balance of different sewing things around to be happy and to make progress, and with these tops being completed, I'll be very quilting-heavy again. I'll have to think about what projects I can start to give me enough of a balance - it's not like I have no stash to play with...

    Happy Sewing!

    Monday, 17 April 2017

    Happy Easter!

    We had the most amazing summer up here in the Far North of New Zealand, and it's only been turning autumn over the two or three few weeks now. We had the remnants of two cyclones passing us (Debbie and Cook), but thankful apart from a lot of rain we personally have been fine. Work had been so busy that while I have been sewing, I didn't seem to find the time to blog about it. With a few days off over Easter there is no excuse now:)

    Back in last Jan / early Feb I came across Karin's blog and her posts about using rulers with fmq on the Pfaff Quilt Expression. I have always had problems with my Westalee ruler foot, and her advice encouraged me to try again. Karin had found that the Accents in Design  ruler foot worked better for her. I ended up ordering their foot, too, and after some delays the lovely Carol ended up sending me my foot free of postage - thank you again!
    Eventually I got around to trying the foot out. Following Karin's example, I played with tension.  All samples used the same cotton/polyester batting and same homespun fabric front and back, thread is a 50w Aurifil top and bobbin. I started top right, forwards and backwards without ruler, than with ruler, followed by anti-clockwise and then clockwise loops.
    Unfortunately I encountered the same skipped stitches issues I have with the Westalee foot. :

    Default spring fmq settings, tension 5.2

    Default spring fmq setting, tension 5.2, stitch length set to 0

    Default spring fmq setting, tension 4.6 - foot sitting too high

    As above, but I lowered the foot more

    Default fmq setting, tension 4.2
    As comparison, this is stitched using my regular Pfaff fmq foot, using the default spring fmq setting but tension down to 4.0 (a bit too loose from the back)
    Just out of interest I tried the sensormatic setting but that was even worse.
    I am not sure what the problem is, but while I can sort of make it work stitching forward (with and without the ruler), going backwards or stitching curves is out of the question. I think I will give it a rest for a while and see if I can pick it up again in the future.

    So what else have I been up to?
    • Finish Press Start (binding, bury threads)
    • Finish Giant Chevron (quilting, binding, bury threads): Still quilting the background arrggghhh about a third to go I think?
    • Finish Opal Essence (quilting, binding, bury threads): 24/40 cubes are quilted, that's the larger part of them done...
    • Complete remaining Vintage Quilt Revival blocks: Just finished block 19 of 20 and made it in two colour ways so I get an extra (I decided to set it as 6 x 7 so I need to extra blocks):
    Night time shot, sorry!
    A post shared by Monika Kern (@himmelgartenquilts) on

    • Piece Metro Rings top (anything else is a bonus)
    • New little project - just four colour ways to go now (that will be about another 45 blocks)
    • Something 'arty': I had been toying with the idea of creating a NZ inspired landscape, to go with my Whakapapa #1, and I decided that inprov. piecing a flowering Pohutukawa tree would fit the bill. I looked at various images for inspiration (here is my Pinterest board) and sketched the outline of my tree. I divided it up into squares (1" on the drawing, 4" in fabric) and started improv-piecing it:

    After spending a bit of money earlier in the year I have been much more frugal for the last few weeks, but this little gadget has come in very handy:
    I found it at a craft sale in the Russell town hall when a cruise ship was visiting the Bay of Islands: Beautifully made from Rimu wood, it has a stiletto and a quick unpick, and both hide nicely inside the handle when not in use.

    Lastly, I have been lucky to win a FB draw by Sew Armadillo and won this gorgeous little bundle by the very talented Jodi Carlton from Ric-Rac:

    I'll have to find just the right pattern for this :)

    Well, the sun is shining, I better go and hang out my freshly washed Tokyo Subway quilt to dry! After that I might just have to sneak back into my sewing room???

    Sunday, 19 March 2017

    In short bursts

    It's been harder to leave work at work over the last few weeks, but this weekend I made a big effort to do 'normal' stuff. On Saturday hubby and I worked together in the garden, but on Sunday I got my sew on :)

    Blocks 17 & 18 - just two more to go!

    A few weekends ago, Suz and I went to our LQS (a good hour 's drive south of us). Amongst a few other things, I bought pattern & materials for Annie's Carry all Tote - perfect for the beautiful music inspired material Suz gave me for a past birthday:

    It now carries my lunch, tablet, papers, charging cable etc. between work & home. I still LOVE work, but I could do with more time in my sewing room...

    Happy Sewing!!!

    Sunday, 12 February 2017

    I'm still here!

    Just checking in, I have not disappeared from the blogosphere or from my sewing room lol In fact I have had a bit of fun, playing, thinking, browsing, buying :) Not long until dinner, but I quickly wanted to update the progress on my resolutions:

  • Finish Press Start
  • Finish Giant Chevron - still just over half way through background fmq; after reading a post by Karin from The Quilt Yarn I have decided I will play with tension (esp. bobbin) and with different needles again to see if I can make fmq more enjoyable.
  • Finish Opal Essence - 21 cubes quilted
  • Complete remaining Vintage Quilt Revival blocks - currently piecing block 16 of 20:
    Exploding Star

    Star and Pinwheel

  • Piece Metro Rings top

  • Flimsy is a very suitable term, it will need a lot of starch and pressing, and then I plan to quilt it extensively :)

  • New little project - steadily adding to the little pile
  • I enjoyed a bit of online shopping, now I'm waiting for a package from Craftsy with batting and another one from Pink Castle Fabrics with Me & You Batiks :) Thanks to Karin's blog (mentioned above), I have also ordered another ruler foot, and I'm determined to make at least one of them work:)

    Work is great, I absolutely love it! Working hard, but everyone is incredibly supportive, and we are already starting to see positive results.

    Not a bad view from the office...
    Flagstaff on Waitangi Day
    Happy Sewing!