Tuesday, 27 January 2009

And now some quilting

It just hit me that I haven't mentioned quilting here for quite a while. (Mostly because not much has been happening in that department lately!) But today I pinned one quarter section of the quilt for my son and daughter-in-law. I mentioned this project back here . This has been a project long in the making. I began planning it when Ben & Lee were engaged, but it was set aside because I was making another quilt for a friend's birthday, which was committed to before the engagement happened. I had decided to quilt that project in sections (Quilt As You Go), because I find handling really big bed quilts difficult these days, so it was a trial run for this quilt. (Why does everyone have such big beds nowadays? The mattress on our new bed is four inches thicker than the old one, because it has a layer of memory foam on it. I had to rethink the quilt I'm making for it.)

I made my friend's quilt in sections, and quilted them to about 2in away from the edges of the sections. Then I sewed the top layers together, trimmed the batting level with the seam so it butted together and then hand stitched one layer of the backing over the other. The problem was, I really hated that method. It was so hard to get everything lined up neatly on the back, because those sections weren't quilted and I still had to quilt over the areas where the sections joined. So each time I joined sections together, I had to quilt this little area, so it matched up with the existing quilting. Lots of stop starts. Who invented this dumb method?

All this put me off finishing this quilt for Ben and Lee. How was I going to quilt it? I love hand quilting with a passion, but not if it involves quilting through all those seams you get in a Log Cabin quilt. I am a happy machine quilter, especially with free motion quilting, but this is a very big quilt. Then last year, I discovered another method of quilting in sections. I'm sorry I can't credit it, because I don't remember now where I read about it. I suspect it isn't just one person's method anyway. But it's so much simpler than what I did before. You quilt each section right up to the seam line. Then you sew the sections together, right sides together, adding a sashing strip on the back. So you have section 1 face down, section 2 face up, then a narrow folded strip with the raw edges lined up with the other raw edges. After you have sewn them all together, you trim the batting on both sections back as close to the stitching as possible. (This is why you only quilt up to the seam line.) Then you lay the sections face down, and fold the folded strip over the raw edges on the back and slip stitch it down. This should be a lot easier than folding backing over itself, because everything is quilted and can't shift around. And I won't have to go back and quilt anywhere. I'm so hoping this is going work out! (Every large quilt I make from now on is going to be hand quilted. Period.)

Monday, 26 January 2009

Shopping bag

Today I sewed together my shopping bag. Now, it just needs straps and the top hem sewing down, and a solid base. I'm thinking I might make the straps in tablet weaving, which I've never done before. More to come...

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Recycling like a crazy woman

One of the bees that fly around in my large and capacious hat is the need to reuse and recycle. I've been recycling and composting and generally making everything work twice as hard since before it became a fashionable thing (hey, that puts me ahead of the world in Something!). One issue on which I have Opinions is the whole free plastic bag thing (and my opinions are not necessarily what you may think). I wanted to consider some of the many other plastics that we are inundated with every day and which are still beyond the capacity of formal recycling. I decided to see whether I liked weaving with plastic strips but I didn't want to use those shopping bags. So I collected some of the other plastics that came through my house and cut them into strips to weave into a shopping bag.(Hey, it's no crazier than cutting up fabric to make a quilt, is it?)

I was really motivated by the idea of making something 100% recycled, so I warped up the loom with my leftover 8-ply knitting wool in every imaginable colour, from forty years of knitting projects. It may come as no great surprise to you to discover that, at some time in the past forty years, moths have come to visit this little treasure trove of past knitting memories. I soon found out which ones were affected, usually when I was halfway through putting it in a warp. It was a slow business.

Next, I had to cut the plastic strips. I've been hoarding plastic bags for some time in anticipation of this project, so I had a session cutting several into long spirals. I found, for weaving purposes, plastics ain't plastics. The ones I'd most wanted to use, those ones with luscious colours and deep blacks from boutiques and department stores are really not nice for weaving. The cut edges are sharp and they give you paper cuts (plastic cuts?) while you're cutting them, and then while you're winding them onto the shuttle and then while you're weaving. The gorgeous, must-use-again bags are the heavy soft plastic ones you get from stores when you buy lots of things that need a big bag. They are from the same sort of material as a supermarket plastic shopping bag but made from a heavier thicker plastic. I also had a lovely green plastic bag that the Christmas cherries came in (inside their box). Building supplies frequently come in heavy plastic, and you can often harvest it from the fields around new housing estates! (Thanks Kaite.)

I had planned to weave a separate gusset for the bag, because I thought the plastic fabric might be difficult to sew but once I began, I saw that the fabric I was making could easily be sewn on the machine, so I didn't bother. I wove a narrow band with black wool yarn, to form a hem at the top, and then wove stripes with the different colours of plastic bag, ending with another band of black wool. I've stitched the knotted eds to make sure they're secure, and sewn it into a simple bag shape, that looks like this: I will make a gusset by sewing the corners, turn down the top hem, and add a lining from old dressmaking fabric and straps. Stay tuned.

Because of not making the bag sections separately, to add the gusset between them, I had some warp left. I used some leftover red wool yarn to weave the remainder of the warp which gave me a piece I plan is to fold it over like this :(a bit hard to see, I know) into a clutch, stiffen it, line it and hey, I have a free purse. I have yet to decide whether to leave the fringe on the outside or sew it on the inside. I'm currently thinking inside... I might also embellish it a bit, add a bit of stitching perhaps, maybe I'll felt it, who knows? Time will tell.

And all this from rubbish lying around the house!

Birthday card

I just had my birthday week. My birthday is always a long, drawn-out affair, unlike other people who just get the one day. When I was younger, it always fell in the long summer school holidays, and while my family weren't big on birthday parties, as I got older my friends would celebrate once school was in again. Now, I celebrate on my birthday but usually I also celebrate on the closest weekend, with my grandson, who shares my birthday, my son, who is two days later, and my daughter-in-law, who is just over a week later. (This family alone keeps the newsagents in business in January, buying birthday cards for each other!) This year, my daughter-in-law decorated a joint cake for us all - one side in pink with toy cooking utensils for us girls, the other in blue-green with a toy digger for the boys! (Wish I'd taken a photo!)

And then I received this beautiful card from my friend Kaite.
Isn't it lovely? The image is a tiny folded kimono. I am always amazed by people's skill with paper. I find paper to be a very difficult medium, steadfastly opposed to what I want to do with it. It wants to crease where I do not want creases, and fights any attempt to crease it where I do. Its friend glue is just as recalcitrant, going where I don't want it to be rather than where I do. We are just not friends. So I am always amazed and impressed when my friends produce incredible things like this, apparent with effortless ease!

Sorry, Kaite, I has too busy partying to put anything special up on the blog on my birthday. Hope I've made up for that today?

Mags, I'm intrigued about weaving on the knitting machine! Or do you mean it's the closest you ever got to weaving? I have an elderly knitting machine under the spare bed. It's lived under one or other of the beds since about 1978, when I was given it by my mother. She'd been given it by someone who knew she liked to knit, but Mum discovered she preferred knitting with needles in the time-honoured way and gave it to me. Like mother, like daughter! But somehow I just hate to get rid of it in case someone wants it sometime! Perhaps I should hand it on to my daughter in the time-honoured fashion, and she can keep it under her spare bed for thirty years. Only, she doesn't have a spare bed yet. I reckon she needs a bigger place, don't you?

Dimensional paint rubbing plates

I haven't been entirely idle during the heatwave. I saw this neat tutorial by Terri Stegmiller on making your own rubbing plates using dimensional paint over at FibreandStitch and thought I'd have a play. After several attempts I made these plates: Let me tell you, it was not an easy task making something worth keeping! I'm very happy I was using really cheap dimensional paint, because I wiped away a whole lot of attempts before I made something I might actually want to print on fabric! It's really hard to maintain a steady pressure on the dimensional paint bottle and draw with a steady hand as well.

Then I left them to dry. My friends will tell you that I have a short attention span and I really like stuff that happens right now. By now, I was already over the whole business but then I found them in the back bathroom a few days later, all nice and dry, and I was ready to try them out. I generally use my rubbing plates as stamps, by rolling on paint with a brayer, so that's what I did.

I have to say I am pretty disappointed with the results, given the amount of effort I put into it! These are the best of my prints: I deliberately chose a brown colour because I had a kind of Kente cloth in my mind from the designs. But I found it was really hard to get paint to stick to the dimensional paint, it really wanted to slide off into the hollows in between. I had not imagined this happening! I can see they might work out quite well as rubbing plates, especially if you are using them with paper, or soft media like fabric crayons, and I promise I will play around with them that way one of these hot days. But compared to the string stamps I made, which are messy but in a fun way, the process just doesn't thrill me and the results just didn't justify the effort. There probably is an easier way...

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Two new things to share

Christmas is not a time when I generally make a lot of progress on things. Time is usually spent with family and friends, and making necessary recovery afterwards. It's also a time when I tend to tidy my workroom, clear my pin boards and generally make ready for the coming year.

But in between, I have done these two things.
This one has been shown here before. It actually dates from 2005, when I was making journal quilts. At A3, they were a little larger than other journal quilts, because I found A4 size too small, and I wanted to experiment with different techniques. This journal quilt was for a challenge I set several friends, called Weather Report. The idea was to choose a month of the year and express that month in an A3-sized work. I chose August, the end of winter and a month that is often wet here in Sydney. I envisaged leaves floating in a puddle, overlaying a map of the Sydney coastline showing Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay. I painted the background fabric, stitched the coastline and made lacy dead leaves by stitching onto Romeo. Once they were stitched on, I quilted water ripples. But it was so hard to get the balance right and I really wasn't happy with it. The coastline didn't show up clearly. So I accentuated it with paint, but then the ripples got lost.

This week, I used my new Prismacolor pencils to accentualte the water ripples a little with yellow shading. I'm much happier with it now and I think it might actually be finished now! Maybe.

My second thing is brand new. Last winter, I saw a jacket in a shop that I really liked. It was made from fabric that had black and bright blue alternating warps and a blue-grey weft. (In retrospect, this might have been a black and grey warp and a blue weft...) I wondered how these colours would look in a scarf. I warped it up this week and thought it looked quite boring! So I added a little ladder yarn in blue with silver bits, and a strand of two-ply bright purple (magenta, maybe?) yarn in some of the blue warps. I actually like how it's turned out, quite classy I think!

I do like scarves - they are so quick to whip up on the loom! My last three projects have been larger, the full width of the loom, and in fine yarn, so it was really good to use something a bit chunkier!