Sunday, September 11, 2011

Garden Fence Blocks

I came across this Garden Fence block pattern and it was the first time I thought to myself "I can do that!", or more accurately, "I think I can do that!".  No disrespect intended to the designer but it seemed pretty enough yet somehow straightforward enough that even I, a novice quilter, could attempt it and feel assured of some measure of success.  It's straight lines and, while it looks so lovely with lots of different fabrics, I thought it could look just as lovely with only three, which suits me as I do not have a stash I can run to, and can't really justify purchasing a lot more right now.

I busily got to cutting (which is my least favourite part because I am not good at it, but I am trying and while still not perfect, I am improving), then sorting and then, just for fun I sewed a block together.  It's quite wonky but I would like to think it is not so bad in the great scheme of things.

My first ever completed quilt block!  I am insanely proud, and trying hard not to be too critical but also trying hard not to be too complacent.  This is also my first attempt at chain-piecing which I really do like, I felt for sure I would just want to complete one block entirely at each time but I do think the chain-piecing helps with accuracy of sewing (at least consistency, if not accuracy) and it is less time-consuming (I am an impatient crafter) and it means I can iron each stage all at once, rather than turning the iron on and off, or leaving it on for too long and allowing curious kittens to singe their whiskers.

I am aiming to complete twelve blocks today - it's my day off and Himself is at work, so it might mean a break for him from sewing and quilting chatter all evening (but then I have another twelve to cut out and sew, so perhaps not).  If they turn out nicely and if the finished size is reasonable (I have worked it out in my head but I need to see it done to really understand), then I have plans for the finished quilts - one being a first birthday present and one being an impending birth present.  If I still adore this block after I have potentially massacred it all day, I think some very careful fabric considerations are in order and it might be just the right pattern for my quilt for mum...I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself but I am also trying to be positive!

Himself loaned me his flashy, snappy camera, as my little Canon has a dead battery and I have misplaced the charger in my recent tidying up frenzy (read: hide all the mess in various places and forget where you put everything) so I have taken photos of my progress but I can't upload them until Himself comes home.  I also do have to clean my "sewing area" (dining table) and take more photos so I am not too embarrassed to show them...

Update: sewing area was tidied and photos have been taken but they are not uploaded yet.  In other news, the quilt top is finished - I spent a very enjoyable day playing at the sewing machine and here are some thoughts / observations:

The original block (done in one go) was the right size, all subsequent blocks (done in stages together) were slightly smaller but somehow all the same.  The larger block made that row a little trickier but all squares were a bit off, anyway.

My quarter inch seam is not quite perfect, I think I am more 5mm rather than 7mm which I think is closer to a quarter inch (haven't actually done the conversion).  Aussies don't generally work in inches but it seems for quilting, we do.

I have added quite a wide sashing between blocks & rows and as a border - wider than I originally thought but because of the wonkiness of each square, I wanted to have a bit of space between them, so it was less obvious.  This has somewhat changed the over-all look, I have used a dark pink fabric and it dominates the lighter pink pattern in the centres - which was my favourite fabric and the one I wanted to showcase in this quilt.  A lesson in colour and planning learned at least!  I might do another border, using the centre fabric but - of course - I don't have enough and will have to buy more. 

I purchased a metre of the dark pink and have used it all except for two small squares.  The bottom border I pieced together out of the offcuts from the other three sides and between the rows, I think it looks okay, I am not bothered by a few extra seams along the bottom edge and I don't think they are that noticeable.

I really enjoyed not having to line up each seam in the block with each seam of the neighbouring block, as there is fabric between but I do need to work on lining the sashing pieces up, as a few of those are not quite right either.

All in all, I had a good day in front of the machine, and achieved what I wanted to.  I didn't think I would go from my first completed block on Friday to a completed quilt top on Sunday so that is something I am really pleased about.

Technical skills aside, I just needed to jump in - do something - and finish it!

Thinking About Money

On Friday, Himself and I had to head off to our local Spotlight, which is local to our location but not one I have been to before (going, instead, to the ones that I have always gone to because they used to be local to my location).  A few weeks ago, Himself found himself at Spotlight picking up something I urgently needed and also purchased half a metre of four different fabrics for me that he thought I would like - and he was correct, I did like them.  I decided to use two of them but discovered half a metre of one particular fabric is just not enough and I also needed a coordinating colour to tie the two together.

I was completely taken aback by what I found.  Previously, when going into Spotlight, I have headed for the papercraft section or the yarn, or possibly anything else there but the fabric so it has been a while since I've had a browse.  What I can say for certain is that when I have looked through the fabric at Spotlight, I didn't find it all that impressive.  This visit, maybe with a new appreciation of fabric and the willingness to look and consider things for sewing projects (which I have never had the confidence to do before), I was impressed.  I found, in our very quick run through (as I was determined to simply buy the two fabrics I needed) at least 20 fabrics I thought were absolutely beautiful and how I would love to make something with them.

The day before, I was at a decidedly more 'up-market', more expensive fabric shop.  I purchased four and a half metres of fabric for the grand total of $106.  That roughly works out to $23 per metre (some were slightly more expensive and some were slightly cheaper per metre).  Today, at Spotlight, I purchased two metres of fabric for $12, $6 / metre - and could easily have spent another $106 - but I would have had around at least 15 metres of fabric for that money. 

I guess the point I am making (if I am making any such thing) is that I appreciate the quality might not be top-notch and there were also a lot of fabrics with colours and designs I found hideous but you can certainly get nice fabrics for a fraction of the cost of other places.  I like supporting small businesses, I like the customer-service focused attention, I like being able to speak to someone really knowledgable about their products and how to do things and I will always try to support small businesses whenever I can...but $106 on fabric for a project "just because" is a luxury and I am certainly grateful I had the money to spend yesterday - a lot of people don't.

I have gleaned information off other blogs and through looking at fabric shops online but really, I don't know the names of most designers, fabric lines or which ones are the most desirable fabrics to have, and I like it that way.  I'd rather just discover something myself and buy it because I fell in love with it (and it was reasonably priced!) - and I don't know enough to purchase something based on a recommendation or a good review, or even a (possibly) inaccurate picture on a website...I like touching the fabrics I am looking at, and pulling different ones over to see how they all go together (or not, as the case may be) - to me, that's part of the fun of it.

I guess all I'm saying is that to fellow Aussies who like fabric, please go and have a look at your local Spotlight if you haven't already, you might be pleasantly surprised too.

Friday, September 9, 2011

When Square Is Not Square

I am having a hard time working out my Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt top.  The reason for this, according to Himself, is because I haven't done a quilting class where they teach you the right way to do things (he is very big on "the right way to do things")...I would love to do a quilting class but it is not high on my list right now - besides, I said to Himself, who needs a quilting class when you have the Internet?  So many tutorials, finished pieces, works in progress etc., and the funny part?  Everyone has their own way of doing things...I think it's just trial and error to see which way works for me.  I love the guidance a teacher can offer but I really do dislike the restriction of being told How Things Must Be Done!

Sadly though, while I am working off the world's simplest idea for a pattern (just the panel in the centre and borders around), it really is hard for me to guestimate the amount of fabric required - and yesterday, purchasing some beautiful tone-on-tone purple, somehow I thought 50cms would be enough and it clearly isn't.  Rather than going back to buy more today, I have adjusted my pattern idea.  Either way it looks as if I will have to purchase more of some fabric, just not sure what yet - and the metre of a particular print that I did purchase to go with it, I am not happy with now and don't really want to use.  So far, I have bought five pieces of fabric for this quilt top and I don't want to use two of them, one of them I didn't buy enough of and the other I definitely don't have enough of with my adjusted plans.

I do agree with Himself when he tells me that I should just follow a pattern (any pattern!) with fabric requirements etc. included, it would be a lot easier! 

The other problem I have come across is this: the caterpillar & butterfly panel (one rectangular piece) was not cut straight on the sides.  I wanted to trim it straight so I could get ready to add the first border...each piece is on a white background with a green border but neither white "square" is actually square.  I have separated and trimmed each block from the panel (so it is now in two, roughly square, roughly the same size pieces) by measuring the same amount out from the white line against the green border, this way I have the same amount of green (more or less) all the way around.  But they aren't square squares!  How do you contend with this?  Do you iron each square into as square a shape as you can manage?  Do you pin the borders to the square following the original white line (and possibly end up with skewiff squares)?  I am unsure of how to proceed...

I am used to working with things like glass (and even so, not very well I might add).  Glass is a lot more restrictive than fabric but on the other hand, if you square up a piece of glass, it stays square, the shape doesn't warp.  I wanted something more flexible / less restrictive than glass to play with, so I have turned to fabric but I am finding it behaves in ways just as peculiar.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Like so many children, I grew up with the books of Eric Carle - and my absolute favourite (of course) was "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" when I saw this fabric, I knew I had to buy it! 

I have seen quite a few Hungry Caterpillar quilts - and I always thought to myself "if only I could make one like that".  I am not sure I will be able to do justice to this fabric but the beauty of it is that it would just be a quilt for me, not as a gift for anyone else - just because I love it...and right now, I think I just need to jump in with a project and give it a go.

I bought one panel of the caterpillar, one panel of the butterfly and whatever they had left of the print fabric - I have a plan in mind, which I will share once I have drawn it out, but I still need to find some more fabric to go with it.

Mr Caterpillar is definitely going to get some embroidery!

I am not actually a huge fan of all the green or primary colours but I accept that is what makes the Hungry Caterpillar so wonderful for children...still, I would prefer to pick up some of the colours below - mainly the pinks, purples & blues in some solids:

And I would be very keen to find a white background, multi-coloured polka dot fabric (with larger polka dots rather than small ones) if such is available.  Could anyone point me in the right direction?

Sunday, September 4, 2011


While I appreciate a picture of a finished quilt as much as the next person, I find the process of quilting most interesting.  I do appreciate the many bloggers who have shared their projects with the rest of us - it has really taught me so much more than I could learn out of a book or magazine.

Yes, I want to know what pattern and fabrics were used but what I really want to know - how did you do it?  What went wrong?  Did it change from the original idea?  Maybe in the future, I will be able to look at a finished piece and "know" how it went together, anticipate the tricky areas and be able to fix mistakes before they happen...but right now, I can't answer those questions myself.

With that in my mind:

The Process Pledge

I, shellimonster, pledge to talk more about my processes, even when I can’t quite put them in the in words or be sure I’m being totally clear.   I’m going to put my thinking and my gut feelings out there.  

(even though I have no processes to share at the moment - when I do, I certainly will).!

Well, here we are - my own little corner of the internet to play with!  I am not new to blogging but I am new to quilting and sewing so this is going to be my place to (hopefully) share my WIPs, UFOs and completed projects with the world.  While I love the process, the most exciting thing for me at the moment is potential completed projects!

Himself is in bed with a migraine, the cats are all quiet (for how long, no one knows) and I have spent my lazy Sunday looking at quilt blogs, quilt patterns and fabrics online.  The trouble is - where do I start?  I am not a long-time sewer and I am not very confident with my skills but I know the only way to improve and gain confidence is to try.

Here are a few things I would like to do:
  • Baby quilt for a friend (pink themed);
  • Love Birds applique quilt;
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt;
  • Dr. Seuss quilt; and
  • Quilt for mum
That's just to start with but I am having so much trouble getting started.  I don't have a stash of fabric to run to (yet), and I am still discovering some local quilting & fabric stores apart from Spotlight or Lincraft (terribly limited selection in my local Lincraft, I am seriously unimpressed by it)...yet I can't justify spending a fortune on fabrics online (or IRL, to be honest) unless I know that I have a plan and I know I have the skill to complete the project.  Right now, I am hoping I can start small or easy and just build from there.

Another thing I would very much like to do, and I hope I can enlist the help of some quilt-bloggers in the future, is to join a bee online - I am reluctant to do so just yet though because I don't know if it would be fair to the other participants who would then have to contend with a true novice such as myself...unless there is a bee just for beginners?  All the ones I have come across seem to be for quite advanced quilters.

My mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May this year and I would dearly love to make a quilt for her to take to her chemo treatments (or just to snuggle up with at home if she prefers), so that is another project in mind...but I do want it to be something beautiful and something I can be really proud of - I know mum would be thrilled with my first quilt, but she deserves a beautiful, beautifully made quilt - it might take me a while to get there!

Apart from sewing / quilting, I do knit and crochet but with four cats (two still kittens), that is proving rather more challenging than fabric work - they still "help" but it is less of a disaster so far with fabric (that's only if I ignore the cat fur that clings to everything, which I do).