Wednesday, March 25, 2015

IN FLIGHT- Block 6- Swallow

Can you believe that we are now at the halfway point of the In Flight Quilt-Along.
The Swallow is the sixth bird block. I love the way that it is elegantly hovering, waiting to get into its nest under the eaves of the house.
This is the first block which gives you the choice to do a big or a small block. I made a 12 inch version of the block, using my usual combination of Oakshott Cottons and yarn dyed Essex Linen. I really like the dark colour of this bird and the variations in its colour depending on the way that the light hits the Oakshott Cotton.

For those of you in doubt, I must admit that 24 inch blocks are generally more difficult than 12 inch blocks. I know that many people assume that bigger blocks are easier because there is less faffing around with teeny tiny pieces, but the bigger paper and fabric pieces can be harder to deal with. It can be difficult working out ways to hold the fabric and the paper so that you can manipulate everything into the sewing machine.

My tips for dealing with large scale blocks are:
1. It can be hard finding a way to hold the fabric in place while holding everything up to the light and manipulating it under the sewing machine. Don't be afraid to fold the edges of the paper if you need to so that you can more easily grip the pieces that are towards the centre of the paper.
2. If there are small details towards the centre of a paper piece, consider sewing them first before taping the paper pieces together.
3. Large flaps of fabric can easily swing out of place and become difficult to sew neatly. I strongly recommend that you anchor these to the paper as you work. You may choose to do this using glue stick or pins, the choice is yours.
4. Remember I told you to use basting stitches when sewing papers together? You may wish to baste fabrics to the papers as you sew while working on large scale blocks. This is again a way to minimise the agony of unpicking if you make a mistake. It's not essential and many of you may be too impatient to do it, but it might be worth considering if you find yourself unpicking every second stitch.

Please do not let me put you off trying to sew bigger blocks. For all that they are harder, I personally far far far prefer the finished results. Big blocks allow you to have a lot more fun with your fabric choices. They have more impact and drama. The sense of achievement at finishing them is also far bigger!

You can find the Swallow pattern in my Etsy store and my Payhip store.

Don't forget that the linky for these blocks is already open. It will close on 7th April at 8:00am (NZT).

A big thank you to my awesome sponsors:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Elephant Calf- A Pattern Release

This is just a quick post today to let you know that I have released the Elephant Calf pattern.

The pattern comes in two sizes- 9 inch and 18 inch.
These sizes have been chosen so that the elephant calf will be a good size next to both 12 and 24 inch elephants.

In recognition of the fact that you can now create a whole family of elephants (Mum, Dad and Baby), I am releasing all three elephant patterns as a pattern bundle.

 These patterns will also all be included in the Safari bundle when it is finally ready for release.

You can find the patterns in my Etsy Store and my Payhip

Monday, March 23, 2015

Utopian Safari Quilt- Finished

This project has been a real labour of love.

It has been a huge pleasure designing a safari quilt to match Frances Newcombe's beautiful Utopia fabrics. I love that it's been done in a haphazard, relaxed kind of way. No deadlines, no pressure, just the room to create in my own time.

I've said it before, but this project was just what I needed!
I will admit that the black background took me way out of my comfort zone. It was not a background colour which I would normally choose. I initially intended to use white and give the quilt a fresh feel, but I was worried that the giraffe would not show up against white (and honestly, what is the point of piecing something if you can't see it?!)

As soon as the decision was made and I had started to sew, I knew that I had made the right choice. I love the drama that the black lends to the quilt and that all the details can be so clearly distinguished.
I free motion quilted this on my new sewing machine. I had fun doing it. I tried out lots of different designs and really tried to choose quilting motifs which suited each animal. 

I am actually pretty happy with the result. 
It's not perfect but it shows a huge improvement on my last free motion quilting efforts. I'm not afraid to admit that I am still learning this fmq business and I am doing my best to be realistic in what I expect of myself.
Finishing the quilting on ths quilt was one of those moments when I could stand back and see that I am making progress. I love that!

The quilt was made using a fat quarter bundle of Utopia. All of the fabrics are represented in the quilt, as I finished it off with a scrappy binding using the remaining fabrics which weren't on the front of the quilt.

I still have some fairly big scraps of a couple of the fabrics that I used for the binding and I must admit that my mind is ticking over, trying to think of a suitable use for them.
I am slowly releasing all the patterns from this quilt. Many of them will not be exactly the same size as the ones in this quilt as I adjusted the size based on my own personal experience of sewing the blocks.

For those of you who are interested, here is a quick breakdown of the quilt:

Finished dimensions= 115cm x 144cm (45" x 56")
Free motion quilted by me using Aurifil 50wt thread in a variety of different shades.
Fabrics used= Utopia by Frances Newcombe for Art Gallery Fabric

I can't wait to show you the coordinating Utopia cushion!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Juki TL-98 Quilting With The Walking Foot

The first thing that you notice about quilting on the Juki TL-98 is that you have room to work. The harp space is a massive 8.5" x 6". This means that you don't have to cram your quilt through a tiny space and that you actually have space to work.

The following photos contain the same small cuddly dog which has been included to illustrate the scale of the machines.
Please note that I deliberately photographed my old machine from the back and have blanked out the make and model details as this post is not meant to complain about its deficiencies, but to show the advantages of the Juki.

My previous machine had a curved base which made it hard to feed fabric through and keep your sewing straight. I am finding the Juki's flat base a marked improvement and I love love love the extension table. It's such a luxury to have a good flat surface to work on when quilting giving me the room to move the quilt freely without stopping to reposition my hands every 2 seconds.

My old machine didn't come with a walking foot, but I bought a generic walking foot for it. I was happy with it for a while. I remember the satisfaction when I bought it, I was amazed that it could move fabric that previously stayed jammed in one place. I pretty much assumed that a walking foot was a walking foot and there wouldn't be too much difference between them- Boy was I wrong!

Moving on to the Juki walking foot feels like a move of equal magnitude. Where the achievement of my old machine and walking foot was to be able to move thick quilt sandwiches, the achievement of my Juki is to be able to do it beautifully. It runs over the bulkiest of seams with a smile on it face and not a moment of hesitation. The stitches always remain beautiful and even (unless I do something stupid!).

I am discovering that there are times that I would definitely have needed a walking foot in the past where it is not strictly necessary with my Juki due to the machines inherent power. That said, I am in love with the Juki's walking foot and use it at every opportunity (yes that includes while I am paper piecing!)

When I straight line quilted with my previous machine, the stitches were never even. In order to sew with an even stitch length you needed to sew at an absolutely steady pace, avoid all variations in the bulk of your quilt sandwich and keep your fingers crossed, stick out your tongue, tilt your head at just the right angle and pray! Needless to say I never managed to do all of these things at the same time so the stitches in my straight line quilting were a mess! This is not the case with the Juki.

The Juki is heavy. It is strong and to use a technical term it has lots of "grunt". It is able to power over bulky paper pieced seams without a problem. The walking foot and sewing machine workings are metal (not plastic) and this adds to the strength of the machine. My stitches are consistently straight and even, it makes me ridiculously happy!

A hint as to why the Juki's walking foot can do so much more can be given when we compare the feet. Just look how much bigger the Juki's foot is! That extra size equates to power. The metal mechanism is far superior to the plastic of my old one.

I love that the metal prongs of the walking foot are not wide and bulky. It was virtually impossible to create a consistent 1/4" seam using my old foot as it was so wide that to sew a binding on using the walking foot meant that half of the side of the foot needed to hang over the edge of the quilt bundle. The Juki walking foot is 1/4" and as such attaching binding neatly becomes significantly easier- another thing to love!

This posts is the second post in my series of posts on my new Juki TL-98P. You can find the first post here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

My New Sewing Machine- Juki TL-98P

I have been the proud new owner of a Juki TL-98 P sewing machine for over a month now and boy do I love it! In this time I've been trying out lots of different kinds of sewing- piecing, paper piecing, straight line quilting and free motion quilting- I've done it all and now I'm ready to tell you about my experiences.

I thought that over the next few weeks I would take the time to share my impressions of the machine and to tell you about some of the features that I love. Some of them took me by surprise, others were as I expected.

Now before I go too far, I should tell you that before purchasing my Juki, I negotiated with Sew Frisco (the New Zealand Domestic Juki Supplier) and arranged to write some posts about the machine in return for a small discount. At the time that I did this, I knew exactly what I was doing and I was completely confident that I was going to love the machine. The content of these posts is completely at my discretion. I made it clear that no matter whether they gave me a discount or not, I was going to write such a post and that the content of the post would not differ.This is my unbiased opinion of the machine.

I'll start by saying that before buying my Juki, I knew that my sewing would improve if I got a new machine. What I didn't realise was just how much. When I initially dreamt of buying a new sewing machine I thought it would have the biggest impact on my free motion quilting, but honestly it has improved every aspect of my sewing.

My old machine was bought way back when I lived in Holland. I remember going into the shop and (in very clumsy dutch) telling the lady that I needed a new sewing machine. I knew nothing of sewing machines, had done absolutely no research on the matter and vaguely knew that my Mum had a Singer which was years old and still going strong.

The lady in the shop was very polite (if slightly bemused by my broken dutch and my insistence that I only needed the machine to sew some curtains). She showed me the absolute basic machines, the middle of the range machines and then pointed over to the Janomes and Berninas suggesting that I might one day get into quilting. I LAUGHED! The idea was ridiculous! I settled on a basic/ middle of the range machine.

Ummm ok... Maybe the idea of me getting into quilting wasn't that crazy after all!

This time round when buying my new machine, I did considerably more research. I wanted a good solid workhorse of a machine with quilting and piecing capabilities. I asked friends, did my research and even borrowed a Juki to see if it really was what I wanted.

There is no denying that cost was a factor. New Bernina and Janome quilting machines are ridiculously expensive in here New Zealand. I looked at them and was frustrated that for many of these machines I would be paying a huge amount of money and that much of that money would go towards features that I just would not use. The way that I saw it, an inbuilt computer meant more things that could go wrong. Beautiful as many of these machines were, they were not for me.

The Juki has no bells and whistles. No zigzag, no fancy stitches. It just sew straight lines (or wiggly ones if you're doing free motion quilting). But what it does, it does really well. To me, it is more than worth its NZ$1995 price tag. I will admit that I am slightly bothered about the lack of a zigzag stitch and I am glad that my old machine still works so that I can drag it out if ever needed. That said, my sewing these days is predominately quilting and I'm pretty sure that I can survive without a zigzag.

Next week I'll tell you a bit about quilting with the walking foot of my Juki and in the following posts I hope to cover free motion quilting and some of the other features of the machine that I love.


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