Flying Geese

January 6, 2021 at 7:05 pm | Posted in Patchwork | Leave a comment

For my current (secret) project, I’m making rather a lot of Flying Geese blocks. Since I like to be efficient in my sewing, I looked up ways to make the blocks without waste and with as little fuss as possible. I settled on this tutorial. It’s a nice and efficient way to make the blocks four at a time, which is exactly what I needed.

While doing a trial block, I noticed I had rather a lot of overlap in the middle when laying out my white squares on top of the blue one:

Blue square of fabric on the diagonal, with two smaller white squares on top in the left and right corners, overlapping in the middle.

The original tutorial doesn’t have quite as big an overlap, but the reason this happens is that I like to make blocks like this a bit bigger than needed, in order to be able to properly square them up later. So I asked myself whether I really need that overlapping fabric? Turns out I don’t, since the vertical line I drew on the white fabric shows where the second cutting line will be in the end, the first one being the horizontal line drawn in. Anything going over that vertical line to the other side will end up creating unnecessary bulk without any function, so I decided to go ahead and cut those corners off:

Square piece of blue fabric on the diagonal with two smaller white squares on top - overlapping fabric cut away where the white squares meet.

After sewing to the left and right of the horizontal line, cutting in the middle and ironing, this is where we are:

Two units with half a blue square on the bottom and two smaller white half squares sticking out on top.

The second cutting line will now be a vertical right down the middle, where the white fabric doesn’t overlap and add bulk. Here’s the four blocks after sewing the remaining two white squares on, cutting and pressing:

Four Flying Geese blocks

Those obviously still need squaring up – if anybody is interested in how I go about that with this kind of block, let me know!

I think adding those two small cuts at the beginning helps making the whole process easier at the end, and I’m always for avoiding unnecessary bulk. I was surprised at first that I just could do away with the overlap, but thinking about where my sewing and cutting lines will be made it clear that there would be no problems with doing that, and my trial blocks confirmed that.

Another Challenge Finished

December 24, 2020 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Patchwork | 3 Comments

In addition to our regular yearly challenges (latest installment), occasionally the pile of leftover fabrics from my group’s charity quilts and challenges gets too big and needs purging. What happens is that at our yearly quilting retreat (remember those? We were lucky to go in January, when we could still be together in a big room for a weekend), a set of piles of matching stuff will be created. Then we draw numbers from 1 to however many we are, and whoever got the lucky number 1 can choose a pile first. There was some stuff I had my eye on, but as I had a number solidly in the middle, I expected most of it to have gone first. I did think I could possible get the fabric I actually got though, since I love it but it was pretty controversial at the time we did that challenge back in 2014. I may have been the person who chose it back then. So yay, I did get all the scraps of the black and white fabric from it. A fellow group member still had some she was willing to part with, so I ended up with a decent amount of fabric.

Here’s my quilt from the original challenge:

While those extra challenges don’t come with any instructions but “Use this stuff, come back with something for next year’s exhibition”, I wanted to set myself a few restrictions. Apart from the print, I wanted to use only solid colours and black. Given the amount of fabric I had to work with, I also decided to make another 40*40cm pillow cover. Here’s the result:

40*40cm pillow cover featuring nine pinwheel blocks in the middle.

I was pretty sure I had enough fabric to make the nine windmill blocks for the middle, and decided to set them at different rotations against the black background. Once I was finished with that, I realized I had almost but not quite enough fabric left for a border. I decided to insert a square of each of the solids I used, and fill in anything still missing with a few bits of black. The quilting is fairly simple – lines going mostly parallel to the seams. Done, so let’s hope we can actually have an exhibition again in November 2021.

Wishing all of you happy Holidays and a better year 2021!

A Month of Postcards

December 13, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Patchwork | Leave a comment

2020 was finally getting to me, and November promised to be particularly fraught. I decided I had to do something constructive to replace some of the doomscrolling, and posted this on Twitter on the first of November:

I had started making cards earlier this year, first as samples for my Green Woman quilt, and later to make my yarnbombing project for CoNZealand mailable. This was an extension of that, trying to figure out what else I could do with the format, and generally making things. I kept at it, and ended up with 30 cards at the end of the month. Here they are in all their glory:

Thirty textile postcards laid out in a 6*5 grid

You can follow the link to the tweet to see the whole thread of cards, but in addition, here’s a gallery of all of them:

  • Two fabric postcards each with a swan on water. On the left, a needle-felted swan, on the right, an appliquéd one.
  • Textile postcard with five diagonal stripes on a dark blue background.
  • Two textile postcards with needle-felting on top of a striped background from hand-dyed fabric. Three spirals in white on the left and a stylized tree on the right.
  • Two fabric postcards with an olive green backgrounds and a single oak leaf on top - on the left needlefelted in red, orange and brown, on the right just outlines machine-quilted.
  • Two textile postcards showing dark trees against a brown and golden background.
  • Textile postcard with light blue fireworks in beads and sequins on a dark blue background.
  • Two textile cards showing an appliquéd tulip on top of a striped background intended to evoke tulip fields seen from the air.
  • Textile postcard made from strips in rainbow colours from red at the top through violet at the bottom.
  • Textile postcard in beige and black fabrics showing musical symbols, mostly in gold.
  • Pair of textile cards with a vertical strip of white fabric with tiny black cloverleaves on it. Rest of the card are horizontal stripes in mostly pastel solids, overlaid with big black appliquéd cloverleaves.
  • Textile postcard from a dark checkered fabric with a white abstract flower and leaves quilted on top.
  • Textile card with a green background. Vertical strip of green machine lace on the left, white tatted flower with added beads.
  • Two textile postcards with a blue background, overlaid with strips of lace. Focal point on the left card is a butterfly from machine-stitched lace, and the right a dimensional flower in Irish crochet lace.
  • Textile postcard consisting of small squares of colourful fabric randomly assembled.
  • Textile Postcard with a violet background with machine-couched yarns primarily in pinks/purples/violets on top forming an abstract skyscape.
  • Two textile postcards from a printed fabric sample with a dark blue/violet background. Left one has the letter "D" from the Dublin 2019 Logo as a star constellation, right one has two planets and a rocket.
  • Textile postcard with colourful diagonal stripes on a dark blue background.
  • Two textile postcards with a fall theme - print with leaves and cones and berries on a black background, narrow lace edging, quilted leaves on green background.
  • Two textile postcards with a rainbow gradient spanning both, the seams embroidered crazy-quilt style.
  • Textile postcard in greens and oranges with a stripe of autumn-themed printed fabric as focal point.

I really enjoyed making small finished pieces almost every day, and finishing things I started was definitely one of the habits I was trying to get into. A format this small also helps me to get past my perfectionism into a more playful state of mind. I had a rough list of ideas before I started, but I didn’t really get around to exploring all of them, but did multiples of others, which is perfectly fine.

I used my scrapbox as the primary source of fabrics to use, so this is also an overview of what my favourite themes and colours are, with snippets of fabrics of many past projects making an appearance. There’s a lot of nature-themed ones, and a rainbow or two – both things nobody who knows me is going to be surprised about. I also did get around to raiding my lace box, but I’m still not quite sure how to incorporate more lace into my quilts – it’s not because I don’t have enough.

Challenge 2020 – not a 25th Anniversary

November 1, 2020 at 10:12 am | Posted in Patchwork, Quilting | 2 Comments

A couple of weeks from now, there should have been my local quilt group’s 25th anniversary exhibition. But since it’s 2020, this will obviously not happen. Last year around this time, as we always do, we set ourselves a challenge for this exhibition, and since I won’t be showing the result in real life just yet, I thought I should at least post about it.

There were three different elements to the challenge this year: a silvery holographic fabric, silver ornaments (a rosette and a star) and a reference to the number 25. The silver is referring to the use of silver in connection with a 25th wedding anniversary. The size of those is standardized to 40x40cm, so we can use the same hanging system every year.

When thinking about a design for the quilt, one thing was immediately obvious for me – the 25 is going to be a 5-patch block made of 25 squares. I was going for a checkerboard effect using light, dark, and the silver holographic fabric. Around this, of course it had to be a celebratory rainbow, since I still haven’t worked out my fascination with rainbows from last year. A fairly short time later, I had this:

checkerboard 5-patch with light and dark/silver squares, surrounded by a rainbow colourwheel radiating out.

The finished quilt is pretty similar, since I decided to keep the quilting minimal – I just used straight lines in the middle of all the pieces using a silver thread.

Finished 2020 Challenge quilt - silver/black and white checkerboard 5-patch with asymmetric rainbow colourwheel surrounding it.

So, that’s two of the three elements – the holographic fabric and the number 25. So, where are the silver ornaments? To be honest, I don’t think the quilt needs them, and I probably will attach them for the exhibition and remove them later. But it’s still a good question where to put them. My original idea was putting them on the black squares of the checkerboard, but I’m currently leaning more towards something like this, emphasizing the diagonal of the quilt:

Possible positions of the silver ornaments along the diagonal of the 2020 Challenge quilt.

I’ll probably even go a bit more random with the positions, having a wider path in the upper left on the yellows and fewer in the lower right. But I have a whole year now to make that particular decision, so I’m not worrying about it right now.

Green Woman #12 – Finished!

October 11, 2020 at 8:39 am | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 5 Comments

Celebrations are in order! I’ve finally finished all the invisible bits and pieces that were still missing, and now I have a finished quilt I’m very happy with. Here it is:

Finished quilt with image of "Green Woman" by Iain Clark.
– –

In addition to putting on the binding, adding a label and a tunnel for hanging, I added a few tiny details that were better left for embroidery and beads than for patchwork:

Detail of "Green Woman", showing the sundew flowers with embroidery and beads.

Here are the sundew flowers with the shiny beads, and I also gave the flower on the upper right a few:

Detail of "Green Woman", showing the beaded center of the flower on the upper right.

That’s one long-term project done, and I am happy with the result. Who knows when I’ll be able to show it off to people in real life, though, with everything that’s not happening this year.

Off to find something new to get obsessed with, now…

Green Woman #11 – Quilting

August 16, 2020 at 9:27 am | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 2 Comments

I was pretting busy during the last weeks, what with a virtual Worldcon and all that. I can’t believe it’s been a year since Dublin 2019, where this project was conceived. When we saw this last, I was trying to figure out how to do the quilting, and right now, this part is finished!

Free machine quilting is one of my favourite parts of making a quilt, even though it tends to be a struggle to maneuver the quilt through my very normal-sized sewing machine. I have seriously been eyeing some of the dedicated quilting machines at times, but then, who has that much space to spare?

So, here’s some progress shots I took:

You can see that I followed the line drawing pretty closely in the coloured areas, which makes the quilting do double duty – adding detail to the image as well as securing the layers together. For the white areas, I knew I had to come up with something different, since those are totally unstructured in the original image. I already had experimented with leaves on the postcards, and my thoughts went to something like a wild rose hedge for the foreground. So I did some doodling:

black ink drawing showing different variants for rose hedge continuous quilting design.

These are not quite what I finally used, but having them on the page helped me visualize how I wanted the border to look. To stay with the clean look of the original, I was going to quilt with white thread on white fabric, so this will be one of those nice things you only see when you look at the quilt close-up, but shouldn’t make a huge impression on the overall look. Here’s a detail, so you can see how it came out in the end:

Lower left corner of quilt, showing the white-on-white quilting of a rose hedge in the foreground.

The big flower is actually the outline of a flower that was woven into the fabric of the damask table cloth I used. It’s pretty much invisible unless you look very closely, but it’s there and it makes me happy.

After removing the basting stitches and squaring up the edges, here’s the pretty much finished quilt:

That’s most of the creative work done! Next I will be attaching the invisible binding, and then do the small bits of hand embroidery and beading I have planned for the sundews and flower. It might still be a while, since currently it’s way too hot to sit under a quilt and sew!

Green Woman #10 – More Samples

June 4, 2020 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

So, last time I ended with a finished top. The next steps were making a quilt sandwich and basting it, thus preparing for quilting, and actually figuring out how to quilt the thing, which would involve more sampling.

Basting happened, here she is spread out on the table all stitched up:

Green Woman 10-08

For the sampling part, I decided to try something different and make some fabric postcards with the interesting features I wanted to get a handle on before embarking on the real thing. Here’s the motifs I choose:

Green Woman 10-01

As with the real quilt, I ironed on the pieces using Bondaweb. The choice of background fabric is not quite optimal for the green pitcher plant, but the background will be rather more brownish for the real thing.

I then quilted the whole piece, trying to figure out what would work:

Green Woman 10-02

I decided to completely ignore any shading and mostly go for recreating the black lines from the line drawing, and I think this mostly works and fits the medium. For the white, I tried fairly dense quilting on the rightmost piece, and then just did a few smaller leaves on the other two. This looks much better to me, and I’ll do a variant of that (suited to the larger spaces I’ll have there) on the quilt.

After aquiring more of the material used for backing those – a very thin but stiff sheet which I think is normally used when sewing bags – I cut them apart and finished them. I figured out a process that works pretty painlessly, so I may do more cards in the future. Here’s the whole row, with added bling for the sundew:

Green Woman 10-03

I was planning to try out different ways to do the sundews, but found the perfect beads, which together with the dark red embroidery thread convinced me on the first try.

Here are the cards close-up for your viewing pleasure (click to enlarge).

I’ve already started quilting, but of course this gets harder when there’s a whole quilt attached to the small piece you’re working on, so I’ll probably be a while.

Green Woman #9 – I’ve got a top!

May 21, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

Last time I was preparing to attach all the tiny bits to the quilt top. I’ve already talked a bit about choosing the right fabric, so here’s an example. The spiral in the middle of this section gave me a bit of a headache:

The primary colour of the fabic on the left is a sand tone, with some browns and a red mixed in, resembling a marbled paper. A good fit in theory, but I couldn’t find a position to put my shape on that really convinced me. Here it is somewhat getting lost against the lighter fabric in the background. So I made a second try, this time with a brown fabric that is much less structured. Admittedly, in the picture it now looks like it’s getting lost against the darker browns on the right side of the background, but the spiral part itself is now more visible. I thought about that one for quite a while, but ultimately went with the right version.

That done, more cutting and tracing ensued, and I kept finding bits and pieces in the picture I had missed. But finally, all the coloured pieces were there:

Green Woman - all the coloured bits added

To get the final positioning right, I definitely needed the white foreground as well, so I proceeded to cut and trace that. Here she is with everything cut out and pinned down in its hopefully final position:

Green Woman - foreground in position

The bondaweb needs to be ironed on using a damp cloth, and of course the pins need to be removed first, so the ironing part was going to be a delicate operation. I had started to make a detailed plan for the order in which the ironing needed to be done, but somewhere midway I realized that it was actually easier to keep everything where it belongs if I did it all in one go. It doesn’t help that mistakes on that step are very hard to fix. I know why I usually prefer thread to glue! In the end, the only visible mistake is in a place where I did the step-by-step method and didn’t take the existing pieces properly into account when adding the new one. It’s not very visible, though, at least with a bit of distance. So, here she is, looking much closer to done now:

Green Woman - finished top

At the moment, she’s still hanging there, while I’m back to sampling. I need to figure out how to get the lady quilted! The quilting needs to do two jobs – first, all those raw edges need to be secured in some way, second, quilting gives me the opportunity to draw on top of the picture with needle and thread and add some structure. But more on that next time.


Green Woman #8 – Decisions, Decisions

May 3, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

So, my delivery of Bondaweb and grey cotton thread finally arrived, so I’m officially out of excuses for not working on this. Still no progress on the actual quilt, since decision making needs to come first. After deciding to use Bondaweb to attach the white, I am also going to use it for all the small foreground bits and pieces, since there’s no need to introduce yet another technique for that. So, I copied those pieces on transparent paper:

Green Woman 8/01

(There’s some missing in that version, I found and added them later.) The advantage to transparent paper is that it’s trivial to then copy things to the backing paper of the bondaweb, which needs to be done mirrored. In selecting fabrics for these pieces I need to be careful not to go too much after the source image, but also to take the actual colours in the quilt into account. Frustrated by the lack of space to see everything, because I need the work table to cut and sort fabrics and trace things, I put up my improvised design wall today (an old flannel sheet in front of my bookcase) and stuck the lady there. Here she is, with the first of the itty bitty parts (roughly) attached:

Green Woman 8/02

This solution gives me the space I need, also she’s looking at me very ominously all the time, which makes it more probable that I actually work on her. The ironing on of all the Bondaweb-backed parts will need to be done in one go, since things are sitting over and under each other, and also need to be fairly precisely positioned. Getting that right will be fiddly, but first I need to prep everything.

Another thing I needed to try out was how to create the spirals of hair on top of the white. I was thinking to needle felt them, and I already had the equipment for that around from last year’s Raksura Colony Tree project, although I had never used it. So I gave it a try on the sample:

Green Woman 8/03

This one has a thin layer of red on top of a thin layer of brown. Worked well for a first try. Looking at the backside, I realized that needlefelting is definitely something to do before attaching the backing, because here’s the backside of that spiral:

Green Woman 8/04

The felting needle pushes lots of tiny fibers through the top and batting, which makes sure the wool is attached really well, but wouldn’t look nice on the back of a finished quilt. It’s one of those things that seems logical once you’ve seen it, but I was surprised for a moment!

I made a second try, trying to mix the brown and red wool a bit better and twisting the colours around each other:

Green Woman 8/05

I like this look much better than the first one. Definitely workable.

But then, with the decision to do everything with Bondaweb, why not cut the spirals directly from the white and let the background show through? I’m currently leaning in that direction in order to not make things more complicated than they need to be. I think I will explore incorporation needle-felted elements into my quilts further at some point, though, since the process is pretty fun!

Maybe next time I’ll actually have attached something to the quilt?


Green Woman #7 – Samples

April 11, 2020 at 9:37 am | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 4 Comments

Here’s where we left the lady last time, and I’m afraid that’s what she still looks like:

Green Woman - pieced background

The next step was figuring out how to add the white foreground. As you can see from the original image by Iain Clark (he’s a 2020 Hugo nominee for Best Fan Artist, go check out his lovely work!), it’s quite a few leaves and twigs, including sharp inside and outside corners, which turned out to be the real problem.

Green Woman - Original Artwork by Iain J. Clark, used with permission.

I knew what fabric I wanted to use – I’ve got some of my mom’s old white damask tablecloths, and it’s a fairly dense fabric (good if you want to put it on top of coloured fabric). I choose one  with woven in florals that I think fits the theme of this quilt very well.

The big question was how to attach the white to the background to achieve the fairly clean lines I’d like to see here? I’d have to try different options, so I started by grabbing a few of the cut offs of the background fabric and sewed them together, giving me a background that’s representative of the real thing.

I then choose a bit of the upper left side of the white border to try things out with, since there most of the interesting features are present.

First option: machine appliqué with a facing fabric

A friend suggested this solution, and I liked the idea because it would put another white fabric layer between the damask and the colourful background. It also would give me a clean edge that I could attach with a simple line of machine sewing. So, here’s a few process pictures:

Green Woman #7 01

The lines get transferred to the wrong side of the facing fabric, then both fabrics are pinned right sides together.

Green Woman #7 02

Sewing is a simple case of stitching along the drawn line. After that I cut off the outside fabric, leaving a small seam allowance. Then I turned the piece, and here’s where the problems start:

Green Woman #7 03

You can clearly see the puckers on the negative corners at the bottom, and the sharp tips at the top are not sharp at all. I took the picture on top of the line drawing, so you can also see the leaf forms are not as nice as they should be as well. At that point it was pretty clear that I’d need to find another solution, but I still attached this to the background just to see if I like the look in general, and to have a base for trying out further steps, like quilting.

Green Woman #7 04

I top stitched it down using a dark grey thread, trying to imitate the outline from the original. It doesn’t look very clean, and as that’s the goal, on to option 2.

Second option: hand appliqué

The next obvious thing to try was hand appliqué. I’m not that big a fan, especially as it would be a fairly substantial amount of work on a piece that size, but if it is what it takes, so be it.

I transferred the pattern onto freezer paper and ironed it to the back of the fabric. Then I cut out the fabric with a seam allowance:

Green Woman #7 05

I like the freezer paper method for hand appliqué since it gives me a nice clean edge to turn the seam allowance around. Here’s the result:

Green Woman #7 06

It doesn’t look bad on first sight. The sharp tips are mostly sharp, but they’re a pain to get to look that nice. It’s the negative corners at the bottom that made me give up after half the pattern was done: there just isn’t enough seam allowance to make those look good.

At that point I had also decided that I most likely would put a line of machine couching with a grey thread right on top of the edges, which would hide all of the seams, and hand appliqué that’s not visible at the end is just not worth the time and effort. So, what now?

Third option: Bondaweb

This is not my preferred option, since it glues the white fabric directly to the coloured background, making things a bit stiffer than when purely sewing, and having the possibility of the colour showing through. But it was the only realistic option left, so I gave it a try:

Green Woman #7 07

I cut the Bondaweb away on the inside of the pattern except for a seam allowance, so I could cut away the background as with the other options. you can see a small dark area, but it’s not as bad as I feared. I then simply topstitched with a white thread, assuming there will be a dark gray couching thread hiding it later. Ignoring the rust spots (no idea what happened here, need to avoid it for the real thing obviously), this looks by far the best to me, so that’s what I’ll go with.

I’ll make the final decision once I’ve tried out the couching and quilting part, because that can still have an influence on what works best. Ordered lots of Bondaweb and a selection of grey cotton yarns online, and it will take a while to get here, because for some reason or other everyone’s shopping online right now. So I’m trying to have patience and am working on other stuff in between.

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