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!