Getting ready for the exhibition

Next week is Canberra quilters annual exhibition.  For the first time in years I have had the time to enter something and make stuff to sell. The theme for the challenge this year is “Red plus 1” – as in one other colour.  As soon as I saw this I thought of the Keep Calm and Carry On posters.  So I made my own take on this.  I also used the theme to make some needlecases to sell, and I just remember I did a bunch of postcards, which I had better unearth from the piles of stuff in my studio and package up ready as well.

My Tiny Treasure entry was done on my embellisher.  I first distressed some synthetic organza stuff then arranged various yarns and stuff on a piece of really thin batting, then laid the distressed organza over that and ontop arranged some more yarns – then gave the whole thing another run under the embellisher to mesh it all together.  Then I did some hand and machine embroidery and sewed on some beads, shells and doodads.  I finished it with a facing.  It is 12 inches square.  Click on the image for a close up view.

There is always a section for handmade Christmas ornaments, so I made some little selvedge edge Christmas trees.  I don’t claim that this was an original idea, I Googled selvedge edge ideas and saw several similar, so decided to have a go.  Surprisingly, it took me about four goes to get an end product I was happy with in terms of finish and construction technique, but I got there in the end.

I still had some selvedges left so I made some needlecases too. I found I had lots of bits of selvedge with nothing printed on, so decided to print some of my own!  The tape measure strip on the foreground needlecase is a piece of plain selvedge I printed up using my tape measure thermofax screen.  I also used selvedge printed that way to make the tab closures – again, click for large image.

This pretty much used up my meagre store of selvedges, so I put out a call on my online quilt group to see if anyone had any they wanted to offload and several people kindly sent me some, so I can do some more playing.  I think a journal cover will be next, and I will definitely explore the idea of printing up some of my own.

The other thing that has kept me occupied is setting up a blog for the local quilting group  – Dalmeny Quilters.

Once the Canberra Exhibition is behind me I can clear the decks and start doing some of the other things on my to do list.  I am also waiting for warmer weather so that I can get out the dyes and wet stuff – its too darn cold for that at the moment.

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Rediscovering treasures

I haven’t posted for a while, but that doesn’t mean I have been lounging around (although now that I am retired, I figure I can lounge to my heart’s content!).

No, actually I have been finalising my entries to the Canberra Quilters Exhibition which is on in August.  They will go off in the mail by the end of this week.  In addition to those two entries, I have been busily making things to sell in their Sales room.  Canberra Quilters is unique (I think), of the State and Territory quilt guilds which put their annual exhibition on in conjunction with Expertise Events, which runs the big annual craft shows, in that they have kept their own sales room.  We aren’t allowed to sell anything that competes with the vendors who pay (I understand) big bucks to have a stall at the show.  Nevertheless, the sales room turns over rather a large amount of money over four days selling very high quality hand crafted items.

I haven’t entered in years, but now that my time is my own, decided to revisit what used to be an annual event for me.  In the process I have rediscovered all my embroidery bits and pieces.  I was an embroiderer before I took up quilting, and taught smocking in Sydney in the early 1980s.  It has all been put aside for sometime and I have quite delighted in opening boxes and finding silk and ribbons and lace and bits and bobs.  There is something very calming about sitting with a nice cup of tea in the winter sun, enjoying the gentle rythym of stitching.

My re-awakened interest in embroidery led me to seek out a local embroidery guild, and I found a lovely group right on my door step, the Bodalla Embroiderers.  We meet fortnightly in a very old and extremely draughty hall in the main street – looking forward to summer when hopefully it will be a bit warmer!

On my first visit I took along a couple of my favourite embroidery books, one of which is Barbara Woolcock’s Embroidered Houses.  Severl of the ladies were very taken with it so I decided to see if I could find a copy for the library.

A bit of googling confirmed that, as I had thought, it was out of print, but a bit more googling took me to a wonderful website I hadn’t heard about before – Better World Books.

Not only did I find a copy of the book – in excellent condition – for only $10, but postage is free.  It arrived the other day and I am delighted.  And even better, the proceeds go towards literacy programs and other good works – so a win win!

I just checked their catalogue and even found a copy of Penny McMorris “Crazy Quilts” – a book much lusted after by crazy quilters which has been out of print for a long time, and which has been known to sell for hundreds of dollars on Ebay! and for just $14.98!

I’ll definitely be bookmarking this site.  Now back to tagging and cataloguing all my goodies for the sales room.

Some quilts finished – and some… almost!

I finished my first quilt for the year – the Ordinary Times quilt for my old parish church in Canberra – been dragging my heels on getting it done, so pleasaed that I can tick it off the list at last.
The colour for ordinary times is green – representing growth.  So I cut squares from as  many different greens as I had – which was quite a lot!  As always with a scrap quilt, I interpreted ‘green’ as widely as possible – not quite letting it go into blue -but definitely lots of olives and yellowy greens, shading down into some browny shades too.  And lots of soft grey greens representing eucalypts.  I wanted a sense of movement, and originally intended using Martha Thompson’s Square Dance technique, where you arrange and sew together lots of squares then using a pinwheel template, cut new squares which have four different adjoining fabrics – its a good tessallating pattern, with lots of movement.  I even made a small sample just to remind myself how to do it.
But then I hit a snag.  First, I went ahead and cut out all the square the WRONG SIZE.  Failing to read the instructions properly (now that’s never happened before!), I cut the finished size.  I did some quick maths and realised that while I could still go ahead with the technique, it was going to be very, very tedious indeed.  The quilt is big – 80 x 110 inches – 200cm x 275cm, and the thought of wrestling it on my cutting table cutting out new squares and sewing it all back together a second time made me feel faint.
So, I looked at my pile of squares and thought – hmm, what to do.  In the end I settled for stacking four different fabrics and just free hand cutting to get a sort of pinwheel shape and sewing them back together.  I did think that I would put some autumn colours in a few to be highlights of swirling leaves, but I soon realised that it made the whole thing look spotty and disjointed – there was no focal point. 
Ordinary times goes for a total of 32 – 33 weeks of the year – although not continuously, but it is still a long time for people to be looking at this thing, so I wanted it to have movement and be interesting, but also to allow for quiet contemplation.
So, I decided it needed a focal point, and to make that a simple cross in the upper right.  I did a quick mock up in EQ7 and went from there.

I sorted out my fabrics into darks, med darks, mediums, medium lights and lights, and just started stacking, cutting, sewing and constructing blocks.  I ended up with a big pile – well, several piles.

Then I started laying them out on the design wall,  I started with the cross shape, using the lightest fabrics, then arranged stuff around them.  Once I had that big together, the rest just fell into place.
Here is the finished top, hung from the railing of our deck. It is the only place I had to hang something this big and stand back and get a photo.  I loaded it up on my quilting frame and did a leafy type pantograph design, whacked a facing and a hanging sleeve on it and now it has gone to its new home.  Hope they like it.  But its a gift, not a commission, so I guess I am not going to worry too much – someone will like it!  I have always found that when I give quilts, I never look back, wondering whaat happened to them.  My pleasure is in designing and making them – what happens to them after that doesn’t really worry me too much.  Of course, I don’t gift quilts to people who I think aren’t going to appreciate them – if I thought there was a real chance a quilt I made was going to end up in the dog’s basket, or being used to wrap furniture in a removal van, I would give that person something else that I thought they might value more.

Once I got that out of the way, I could get on and do something for myself – or more correctly for one of my grandsons.  Last year I started  making some letters but they got put away.  When I saw Tonya’s bookbeing advertised in the blogosphere, it prompted me to pull them out and get finished.

Making these letter is a lot of fun – no real rules, just a few simple guidelines and off you go.  I realised when I looked at the photo that I made a mistake putting that band of red white and black fabric under the date – it should have just gone straight to the spotty sashing, but by then I had the outer border on and really couldn’t be fussed unpicking it all.  I am sure Leo won’t mind.  I am binding it with the same black and white spots, and that will get done this afternoon, while watching some old episodes of Dr Who that I missed the first time around, then it is in the mail to Melbourne.  So, that will be two completed quilts so far this year.  I’m on a roll!
I have a nearly completed top on my design wall.  Lots of white, which isn’t normally my thing, but during the fund raising that went on around a number of blogs following the floods in Queensland, I came across this designer who was offering to donate the sales from her patterns to the flood appeal.  Well that sounded like a pretty good deal to me, so I bought a couple of her patterns.  Kate is obviously part of what I believe is christened the “modern’ quilt movement!  Lots of white, bright fresh fabrics and free cutting.  Her quilts and others in that style certainly do look bright and fresh, and if is attracting a whole new generation to quilting, then it is a damn good thing, I say.
Anyway, I whipped this up – not quite following the pattern (sorry Kate) with some brights that I bought at the end of 2009, while suffering cabin fever in the apartment.  Don’t know what possessed me, as they aren’t really me, but what the heck.  This will go to Canberra Quilters Quilts for Others program, once I get it finished.
I just noticed a dark rectangle shape shadowing behind this quilt.  Canberra Quilters has an annual challenge, which is always 70cm by 50cm.  I am not good at visualing space, so I arranged some leftover strips on my design wall to mark out that area so I could get my head around how big this needed to be.  I just plopped the quilt top over it.
The theme for the challenge this year is “HOME”.  I have been thinking about how to represent that.  I could of course use my new found letter-making skills too make a HOME SWEET HOME quilt, with a couple of wonky houses, but that is a) a bit obvious, b) a bit naff, and c) not really me.  So, what else?
Homes and the loss of them is very much to the forefront of peoples’ minds here.  With the floods/cyclone in Qld and fires in Perth, many people are homeless.  We have just marked the second anniversary of the terrible fires in Victoria which killed over 170 people and destroyed many homes – almost entire villages.  Some of those people are still homeless, too traumatised, emotionallly or financially to think of rebuilding.
In Qld, there are seven people still missing when a fllash flood swept through a small farming community, tearing houses from their foundations and washing away the occupants within.  We think of homes as our sanctuary, our safe place.  But for some it is anything but.  There was an article in the paper this weekend about some adults who had been sentenced to jail for systematically abusing and starving a number of children, supposedly in their care.  For these children, ‘home’ was a hell from which they have now been rescued, but the physical and phsychogical scars will remain with them for life.  A few years ago, the state government ran a campaign called ‘home is where the heart hurt is’, highlighting domestic abuse.
Lots to think about there – I had better get cracking.