Saturday, 29 December 2012

Experiments

We've been doing all sorts of experiments at home lately...
What happens when 8y old stomps on 10y old's hand? Lots of tears but apparently nothing worse - phew...
Will a rescued wild baby rabbit survive in the cage? So far that is a yes:

Can 8y old's vinegar and baking soda rocket take off with baking powder? Yes, but it shoots higher when you use baking soda:
I am still working on the D4P, but after reading this post by LuAnn Kessi, I just had to experiment with microwave dyeing. Lovely LuAnn gave me some more tips per email which made it very easy: You have your fabric ready (pre-washed and wet), put approx. 1 fat quarter into a plastic container (I used ice cream containers), squirt on your dye (I used Procion MX Dye), just cover with soda ash (get Sodium Carbonate Hydrogen from the local pool shop as Balance Pak 100 - mix 1/3 cup with hot water), cover with clingfilm (poke some holes into it) and microwave on full power for 3 min. Watch your fingers when you take it out, it's hot! Rinse and then soak in very cold water for 30 min. Wash on hot. LuAnn says as it has been set in the microwave, your dye won't run later.
Here are my results:
I had wanted to go for greens, but as I had mixed my blue powder with less water than the yellow (and the red), it dominated.


Resist dyeing on some white-on-white

Less contrast from the back and therefore easier to use
 
Another white-on-white

Next day some more colours after I mixed my yellow to a stronger and then even stronger concentration

I had tried over-dyeing some of my blues, it looked good until I rinsed it - maybe the soda ash wasn't good any more or did I even forget to use it?!

A fq rainbow of pastels :-) I still want to learn how to make them more vibrant, but I was very pleased with the overall result

The resist pieces and some of the scraps I dyed also
I found that I got stronger colours by using 1 tsp of dye to 100ml of water in the blue, and for yellow I even ended up with 2 tsp to 150ml. The red I am using up must have been at 1 tsp to 150ml. I will repeat the experiment and add more powder. As this was so quick and easy and got just as nice results as when I followed this tutorial, I might stick to this method being an instant gratification type person!

This is what my blues and greens turned into later on yesterday afternoon, my first draft for the AQC Challenge 'Free':
 
Size 48x49" marked out on my design wall - it's meant to be 49" square but my wall is not that wide

Auditioning fabrics


Adding some other bits to see if this could work

Lots of squares needing to be sewn together.
I'll keep you posted...

This is my 100th post - whoop-whoop! It's a scorcher of a day outside, after getting lunch for the kids I might just have to hide in my sewing room until the sun is bearable again - I love the hot weather though the sun doesn't love me, but any excuse will do lol.

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christkind has been and gone!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
Following German tradition we had our big family dinner on Christmas Eve, preceded by Christkind = christmas angel bringing the children presents - well, traditions have been mixed a bit by now, so there are presents under the tree for a few days beforehand (not for the kids though, so they won't play 'guess the present'). Family bring presents also, christmas angel puts all remaining presents - plus one per child from christmas angel - under the tree and by magic disappears before it can be seen after ringing a little bell.

The weather has been rather unkind to us this year, the remains of that tropical storm Evan have given us full water tanks and a smelly dog. Today it is still very murky though the weather station tells me it's supposed to improve - after using the dryer again yesterday (that's twice in a fortnight after about 2 years without!) I hang out one load earlier - fingers crossed it has not rained again yet - oops, just jinxed it, shower has arrived... DH has to work so yesterday the boys and I just blobbed out, they played computer and xBox, even went for a swim in the rain, I read and sewed and face booked etc.

My Christmas wishes have come true, lovely Suz showed me how to use Picasa which I have now downloaded on to the laptop and my lovely mum gave me a purple little camera with pink bag for christmas - the best way to ensure that none of the 4 boys in my house will use it lol!!! Blogger iPad app has improved, too, but I haven't figured out yet how to insert pics from Picasa that way, so I'll have to draft there and then prey the laptop out of oldest DS's hands to insert pics lol

There has been more sewing going on that I have been able to show you, but now that gifts have been given I can reveal:




Mum has a big birthday come up in July, but as she and we are going to be in Germany at that time, I gave her the quilt for christmas instead. Using the "There's a Square in There" pattern and an Ikea children's fabric "Fabler" by Silke Leffler she had given me for the feature, I made her a king size quilt. Using the walking foot I quilted around masking tape squares, some of them highlighting features of that Ikea fabric (which was not fuzzy cut). The batting is cotton, and on the back I put some world traveller's passport stamps, a fabric bolt I adopted at Spotlight a few months ago - a reference to her and her partner's semi-frequent travels to the other side of the world ;-)


I also made a bunch of oven mitts but only photographed one set, using various fabrics I regarded suitable for the recipients and batted them with two layers of cotton and one layer of heat resistant batting (for my own I only had one layer of cotton, and sometimes things get a bit hot...). Rhianon had recommended some FB videos by Phyllis and I had great fun trying out different feathers on these oven mitts.

In between I finished the second felt background, this time with all-over feathers. Again thanks to Rhianon I watched a video, this time by Natasha, and while Judi from Green Fairy Quilts has made a tutorial about a similar pattern, it only really clicked for me when I saw Natasha do hers on a home machine [note: Natasha's blog is in Russian, so use Google Translate]. I really enjoyed this, and if mum needs another background, I would be happy to quilt it. It gives me a chance to practise something on a big scale without worrying about mistakes because they can simply be covered up :-)

I haven't got major plans for the next few days - get oldest DS off the computer every now and then would be a good start - please, if you can, keep your sons, nephews, grandsons off a game called Minecraft, it appears to be highly addictive though it is certainly one of the more harmless games out there!


On the sewing front I want to make much more progress on my D4P, I am in the process of piecing another 11 blocks but matching those triangle corners drives me up the wall - if anyone has a simple tip, this would be much appreciated!


I also want to dye some fqs so I can make a start on my piece for the Australasian Quilt Convention. I enrolled in another Craftsy class, Wax Resist Dying with Malka Dubrawsky, I love her fabrics so I am sure I will learn heaps for this and other projects.

On the work front I will go back to work on 7 January but I have resigned from my job in Special Education after I have been offered a full-time job as e-Learning facilitator (working with schools to help them further develop their e-learning), starting 21 January. While I will miss the work with my little people, I believe that e-learning will play a more and more important role in 21st century learning. And it pays the bills a lot better than Special Education!

I hope you have a peaceful and happy time wherever you are and whatever you are up to!

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0 - 4 month review

I have had my new machine for 4 months now and I think it's time for a review.

First I have to say I still love this machine. It is spacious, has lots of extras and just runs very very well! DH has now built it into my sewing desk which might be less practical than an sew ezy table but gives me plenty of space to spread my work out on.

What works well:
That black hook behind the foot gets pulled down and engaged to give you the walking foot
  • The built in walking foot: Nothing easier than that, just a little lever to push down and voila you have a walking foot that takes not any more space than your usual foot (note: this does not work on all feet, only on the ones with a cut-out in the back).
  • Lots of stitches - more than I will use on a lifetime but it has been fun playing around with them
  • Needle threader - so easy! I have to admit I bent it at first, but now it's back in the right position. (I threaded my old Bernina the other day, that was so much harder!!!)
  • Winding bobbins through the needle - no more unthreading and rethreading (when you only have one spool of that particular thread)

What took some time getting used to:
  • Needle up through the foot pedal: On my Bernina I used my heel, here I use my toes - silly, I know, but still! Same with the thread cutter on the side of the machine, one cuts from the front, the other from the back ;-)
  • Winding bobbins: I was used to a big 'clack' when the bobbin is full, this machine just slows down, and it took me some time to adjust the side lever so I actually got a full bobbin.

Changes I had to make:
  • I don't like the fmq foot it came with.

Like many things, Pfaff accessories are very expensive here in NZ, so I bought a Brother spring fmq foot from Spotlight for $20 and adjusted it.



This works a treat! Btw, this machine likes to fmq with feed dogs dropped (on my Bernina I keep them up).
  • The supplied 1/4" foot is nice BUT: It only uses the left one of the feed dogs to transport the fabric, so even with the walking foot engaged I have had issues at times.
Oops, a bit blurry but you can see that right feed dog - no fabric on it!

However, after reading Bonnie Hunter's recent post Buyer Beware on Vintage Sewing Machines, I realised that I needed the fabric to feed through both feed dogs and I am now using the 0A standard foot with the needle position on 2.5 which gives me a nice 1/4" seam and no more transport issues. 
The needle is moved to the right where it lines up with a little red mark in the foot and voila, both feed dogs are covered by fabric!
Pfaff, on a special quilting machine you should have done better!!!

  • The cover for the drop in bobbin slides to the front, and seams tend to flip at the edge of it. Initially I just arranged my seams to go the other way, but I have now bought a large silicon slider with cut out for the feed dogs which covers this area and I have no more problems as I now leave this on permanently.


Overall verdict: We all have our likes and dislikes in regards to machines and brands. I have always liked Pfaff and I am glad I have got the Quilt Expression 4.0 now. The fashion in which I got it (through family overseas) means I don't have access to warranty which was a risk I was willing to take - it was that or not getting it as I couldn't have afforded buying it in NZ (@ approx. $4000 they cost twice what they have paid in Germany incl. shipping to NZ! - I know that's not supporting local business, but unfortunately I haven't got that kind of money!). I would recommend this machine to any quilter, as long as you are prepared to deal with the issues I described.

On a side note, I still have my Bernina Virtuosa 150, it has been serviced just this month. I was tossing up if I should keep it for piecing or sell it and I am now tending toward selling, so if you are interested, just email me :-) NZ only as freight would be too expensive to make it worth it

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Two wishes for Christmas

I just decided that I have two wishes for Christmas:
Firstly I want my own decent camera with zoom and flash - the phone just doesn't do it at night. DH has been eying up a new fancier flasher camera and I would be happy to take his old one which takes nice pics and has about a million more functions than I would ever need - as long as I can have it to myself!
Secondly I want someone in blogland to teach me how I can easily (!) add a signature to my photos. Wendy from Sugarlane Quilts for example always has her little Sugarlane Quilts c 2012 on her pics, I've tried it on Paintshop Pro but I don't really know what I am doing and it takes FOR EVER!!!
Of course there's heaps of other things I might wish for - health and happiness, freedom of financial stress, peace for the world - and access to a laptop whenever I want to (I know the alternative is more tough love and less computer for kiddies or hubby but I am a push over after all) - or a decent blooger app on the iPad!
So I'm quite easy to please this year, am I not? lol

My, it's been a busy old time! The children are getting towards the end of their energy, lots or arguing, whining, pushing and shoving (boys after all...). Oldest DS finished school on Thursday and I can brag that he was top of his year level! BTW, his insulin pump seems adjusted to a point now where he is no longer very high at night, so I've only had to get up at 2am for the last few nights. The two younger boys will finish school on Thursday, which is also the youngest boy's 8th birthday! I think I have the present thing under control though he is expecting to get a massive Lego Ninjago set which I somehow can't see fitting into our budget or the perpetual mess in his room.

For two weeks I have worked full time, 3 days at Ministry of Education and 2 days at my old school. I find it hard to swap hats, makes me feel like a sort of split personality - neither here nor there! I have been looking for full-time work for next year, MoE still not offering more hours so now I am contemplating an offer of one term full-time at a local primary school. There's just the question of what happens after that term?! I am on annual leave from MoE after this week, still at the old school Thursday and Friday though. It will be a relatively short break, I'm back in the office on 7 January - that's a first for me, I'm used to summer holidays where I would also start preparing early / mid January but mostly from home while looking after the boys. We'll see how it goes.

The garden has been making progress, the weather is not really summery still, still plenty of TOO MUCH rain. We have been able to swim some days, 27 degC in our pool late this afternoon, I hope this will become the norm now.

I have even managed to get a whole lot of sewing done: DH has put my Pfaff machine into my sewing table and it has been bliss for FMQ! My mum Ilse is a Fibre Artist as you might remember, and last month at a workshop she was introduced to FMQ on felt. She is still practising but already making great progress. She has been creating wall hangings and I had a play with fmq on the hand felted background for one of them, inspired by the Angela Walter's Craftsy Class on Negative Space (which I yet have to finish!):
This is my 15" ruler so this makes the piece of felt about 45 x 30"

I have no idea if this filler has a name, I would call it potpourri because it reminds me of dried petals.
Here I am using a 12wt Wonderfil Frutti thread which I bought at the festival of Quilts - I won't be using that again, like Suz I found two ends tied together with a knot in it! It managed to bend and snap my topstitch needle in two places, and I had quite a few problems with shredding etc. (also on the There's a Square in There quilt where I used it first). Of course (!) there isn't enough thread left, so today I bought a Madeira cotton in a similar colourway from the local sewing shop. Again using a topstitch needle (the felt is a bit coarser than what mum usually makes), this 40 or 50wt (doesn't say) cotton looks similar in weight though slightly different in colour:
You can see it here in the paisleys on the left.
I had started from the side so I could have different fillers in different vertical sections of it, now this new thread is pretty much in the middle, so I have gone over to the other side and work back towards the middle with the rest of my original thread so it is more balanced. In the end little of it might be visible as mum will attach felted flowers to it, a bit like this one, but she can leave space so that the stitching is visible if she likes :-). It's been lots of fun though this particular wool tickles me (mum says it's recommended for use in rugs) - and the fluff! Next time - if she likes it enough that there is a next time! - I'll add some fabric to the back as lining so not all of it ends up inside the machine ;-)

Today I started on some Christmas prezzies, here is a glimpse:

I leave you to guess what it is (now you know why I want that camera!) - the closeup should show you the Victorian feathers that are puffing out nicely due to three layers of batting! 3 similar ones yet to do...

There are heaps of projects on the go, I guess tomorrow will have to be a binding day!
oops, blogger, you are not very helpful!
3 of my Sew It's Finished BOMs on the design wall - they will become a lap quilt for DMiL when we visit them next June; my Patchwork Club Challenge piece for the January exhibition needs the binding finished and the antennae stitched on; and the strips are for the binding of There's a Square in There! Still lonely is my chainlink fence, I might have to look up the deadline for that challenge.

Off the designwall are my D4P and Firework as well as several cushion covers; DH bought some fluffy fabric in addition to the ones I have started earlier in the year, I desperately need more inners to fill all these (I might give some away, soon there's more cushions than space on the floor which is where they always end when the kids come into the lounge!). However, after Wendy from Sew It's Finished appealed to us all, I completed another UFO in November:
Yes, it's another cushion cover!
This was my failed attempt at a Storm at Sea pattern in fire colours. At the Auckland Festival of Quilts I had an offer from a Wellington quilt shop to put me a kit set together, but I am not quite sure yet. However, I'm pleased I got this one out of the drawer. Not sure yet what if anything I'll do for December...

Happy Sewing!

Friday, 23 November 2012

It's been quiet here..

.. on my blog lately... heaps has been going on but not much blog-worthy:
I have been pottering along on the quilting for There's a square in There (5 more squares to quilt, then trim and bind) and the piecing of Firework (7 blocks so far - I was thinking of about 30) . My D4P has been suffering from neglect - still at 30 blocks (of about 90). I have completed another BOM block and decided on a purpose / recipient for it once it's finished. I have a few little projects in mind for Xmas prezzies (just another 4 weeks!). I haven't done anything for Sew It's Finished for this month, I have run out of steam for UFOs (and the few remaining UFOs require a bit of thought and effort, too!).
I did though have a reshuffle in my sewing room a weekend or two ago and have attacked my mending pile - well, to be honest, I just sorted it into 'mindless' and 'not so mindless' work and kept the former as a massive pile on the floor with the plan to attack one every other day (mainly rips in pants and the likes). So far they are all still sitting there (sigh...)

Maybe it's all to do with a lot of other stuff going on, oldest DS is finally and permanently on an insulin pump, works great during the day but night time is yet to be properly adjusted (at the moment he requires a blood test and usually a correction at 2am - which then needs to be checked at 4am - can you hear me yawn? I am obviously too old for broken nights...).
Work has been a bit of a worry, my part-time job at school finishes in December and so far no offer of anything from next year on. I should enjoy just working 3 days a week but that doesn't quite pay that oldest DS' school fees... On top of that we have just booked a holiday in Germany, taking our whole family back there for the first time in 12 years (that's the first time for the two younger boys and the oldest one only turned 1 while we were there last time). Not a cheap undertaking either!

So this weekend, while DH is on nightshifts and asleep during the day, I will try to have a go at our Patchwork Club's Exhibition Challenge: An A4 (portrait) size piece inspired by the first letter of our name. I will use my painted silk chiffon layer method I last employed for middle DS' portrait. This is my starting image:
What are you planning to get up to this weekend?

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

BOMs

I finally started on my BOMs from Sew It's Finished - here are the blocks from June and March:

Today was my 'day off' but somehow I ended up really really busy - here is some of what the kids and I made this afternoon for Pet & Show Day tomorrow:
Middle DS, youngest DS and niece :-)
Note to self for tomorrow: Remember to take children, gingerbread people and budgies - and don't forget to go to work lol!

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Heaps of lovely quilts and this and that

{Just a warning, this has turned out to be a looonng post so pour yourself another cuppa :D}

It's Sunday morning, the children are parked in front of the box, husband has gone to work. By the time "What Now" is over on telly, the sun will have disappeared I suppose, this seems to be our weather pattern at the moment, nice when you get up and then it turns grey and overcast and not very warm - it's (almost) enough to make you a global warming skeptic [not really, too much evidence here of the hole in the ozon layerwith skin cancers and the likes...]. We'll get one 'extra' (child) later on today but I am hopeful they will just entertain themselves (my experience is as long as you feed boys things are generally fine).
Suz and I had a lovely day on Friday - well, we agreed that even just leaving Okaihau without children feels like a holiday lol - took a leisurely drive to Auckland (250km from here) via Spotlight and No.1 Shoes. This was my first visit to the "Auckland Festival of Quilts" a far cry in size of venue and exhibition to our local guild's exhibition. What impressed me the most was the amount of classes and workshops the exhibiting quilters had taken as per the descriptions on their cards - well, their guild is slightly way bigger than our Patchwork Club :-). My main focus was 'wow' pieces and quilting, so here are some of the photos I took:
Wow!

After my DS' portraits I had to photograph this!

crooked photo, sorry!

Gustav Klimt's The Kiss - we have a whole calendar of his works at home, hmmm maybe I can try sth. with that....

Mum has been working on felting flowers for a wallhanging, I will have to show her this one!

On silk or satin (can't remember)

Another Wow!

A different kind of Wow!

More Wow!

The canopy of this Pohutukawa tree is made from NZ prints


Very wow!
Suz and I ended up with a bit of an overload in the end, I didn't even end up taken photos of their lovely colour challenge quilts at the entrance but please head over to Leeann's Quilt Whangarei blog to see them, they were stunning!
Next we headed over to Northart to catch up with Rona from Layer upon Layer for the opening of the Big Quilts Exhibition. I forgot to take a picture of us all three together sorry!!!!!! Wendy, the curator, had displayed the 17 quilts beautifully, it was really interesting to see them displayed against white walls with wonderful lighting. It is hard to photograph them all with people standing in front of them, but here are some of them:
Kaffe fasset fabrics (I think) are often to flowery for my taste but this was just stunning (and yes, you can see my To the Power of Four to the right of it)

I have seen a lot of modern quilting with freehand parallel lines today

Not fmq yet absolutely stunning with lots of NZ reference in it
And upon leaving we discovered that you can see this through the window

and what about this as a quilting or an applique pattern (on the fence right outside):
A few learnings from the gallery exhibition:
  • Professional looking photos are important to be selected (the curator mentioned to us that a lot of the submitted photos were of really poor quality and quilters in comparison to painters really needed to up their act; now I didn't dare ask if mine were good enough, I had made a real effort...)
  • The Gallery did not iron the quilts so mine still had some folds from transport - might have to investigate Leah Day's storing quilts suggestions. I hope the folds disappear over the next few weeks.
  • Displaying them against white, firm walls with good lighting really showed them off well.
  • Some of the quilts for sale their were more pricey than I expected - deservedly so, with all the material and time that goes into them on top of the creativity. If you imagine buying a painting of that size, you would expect to spend thousands also! (My quilt is marked NFS, I made it for our bed, some of the material is just Spotlight fabric and I don't think it's perfect enough to sell - and then our cats have left some now faint marks on it, too!)
So where - if anywhere - do I want to get with my quilting? I am getting a bit obsessed about it at the moment (or so I am told by my family!). I have three big (secret) quilts on the go, but my head is just overflowing with arty type ideas (they are going forth and multiplying, might have to investigate if there is any family planning advice for crazy ideas lol). Would I have enough time and money to make quilts to sell? (Like most of us I need to work to earn the money to make quilts which limits the time considerably lol). Well, for the moment there are two new challenges I have on my mind, let's see how I go with these...
If you are still with me, here are yet more pics for you from some of the stuff I did yesterday:
I am trying to make a chain link fence, zigzag stitching on wash-away stabiliser

Drying on a towel - one link didn't quite link but that wouldn't matter for the project I have in mind. It stretched, so will have to plan for this.
This is for a piece "Free" where I want to wind a creeper like morning glory around a chain link fence. I think this method could work, and I would stitch it to the backgound using tiny zigzag with invisible thread. I'm open to better suggestions though!
Here some different kind of 'paper piecing': I am working on the cartwheel pattern from Freshly Pieced but just the word paper piecing puts me off a bit so after contemplating and temporarily discarding stack and whack  I made myself some templates. I always struggle with how to cut triangle corners so my pieces will fit (despite Marti Mitchell's corner trimmer, but here you have got odd angles), so I worked with paper until I made it fit:

I have three blocks finished so far using Melka Dubrowsky's Stitch in Colour fqs and Kona steel, I am planning to set them in 5x6 rows with the steel as sashing, but I am intrigued by the secondary pattern you could get when you set them as below, so this pattern might get used again :-)
Working title 'Firework'
Well, an hour later and I haven't even put the dishes in the dishwasher - I hope you have a more productive Sunday morning!

Please don't forget to vote at the Blogger's Quilt Festival - #339 is my entry, the portrait of my lovely middle DS :D

Happy Sewing!