Friday, April 15, 2016

Patience

A few hours ago, I picked my children up from school. They were excited as it signalled the first day of the school holidays- two weeks of fun filled family time ahead.

For me it's a good time to reflect back of these last few months. To assess what I have achieved and think about what I can do better next term. This has been my first term of having no children at home during the day. The first term that I have been able to dedicate myself fully to my pattern writing.

As a blog reader, you're probably wondering what I have been up to, as I have been unusually quiet here on the blog recently. I really am sorry about that, but this is where the title of this blog post comes into play.

Those of you who follow me on social media will realise that I am not always the most patient crafter. I come up with a new pattern and have to share it with my followers immediately. I am often fairly spontaneous in the design process and choose to share that spontaneity with you guys.

If I'm honest, this is an approach that can get me into trouble and can lead to stress. Not every idea is as good in fabric as it is in my head so not every design that is shown on instagram will be released as a pattern. The moment that a design has been shared on social media, it also loses its appeal to magazines and publishers so these days I have to consider whether a design will potentially be of interest to a publication. It's a tough juggling act!

These last few months have taught me to be patient in my crafting. I have had to moderate the natural spontaneous crafter in me and think carefully about what I share and how I share it. I have had to think of the long game and keep projects secret until the designated time when all can be revealed.

This term I entered my first quilting challenge. One of the conditions was that all quilts had to be kept off social media. I am really excited to tell you that my quilt has made it through to the final round of judging and will travel around New Zealand over the next year. Technically, I could show you a sneak peak now, but it is only a few short weeks till the quilts will be displayed and the winners announced, so I think I'll save the grand reveal just a bit longer.

I also completed two projects (four quilts) for a couple of print magazines. This was the first time that I had submitted anything for a print magazine, so it was exciting and nerve racking all rolled into one. Both of the magazines will be released in June, so stay posted for updates about them.

Over the last few months, I have worked on two large scale quilt patterns- the 50" x 50" seahorse and the 40" x 65" running zebra. Both patterns are getting very close to release. You may be wondering why patterns are now taking so much longer to release than they previously did. There are many reasons for this.

These days I never release a pattern without sewing it myself. I have discovered that no matter how good my pattern testers are, there are some issues that only I can find. They are the subtle changes that can make a huge difference to the ease with which you can sew a pattern. Things that pattern testers may not know can be improved. Things that may not even bother them, but things that bother me.

After sewing a new pattern, I have to think about how to present it to you guys. I have been reassessing the layout of my patterns and the diagrams that are included. I have been considering how I can guide you guys to create the best item that you possibly can, while still respecting your own creative touch. I don't want to dictate how you interpret my patterns, but I do want to give you all the help that I can to create the best possible result.

I am really excited by how my pattern formatting skills are improving. I have been able to clean up my patterns and create a more professional look for my patterns. I really hope that you can see the difference because it adds a lot of work to the process!

All in all, I'm happy with how this term has played out. I have met all my deadlines and created projects that I am proud of. That said, I've struggled to find a happy medium regarding how much to share and when to share it.

I've also found the need to split my sewing time into work sewing and fun sewing. When I first started sewing, I fearlessly tried lots of new techniques. Over the years, this has changed and I have become a bit stuck in a paper piecing rut, so over the next wee while I am going to try out a few improv techniques. Who's interested in joining me? Do you have any suggestions for techniques that I should try or sources of improv inspiration? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 21, 2016

#Ausseaurifilclub April Bundle- Mountain Air


I had so much fun choosing my thread bundle for the #AussieAurifilClub!

That said, I didn't find it a particularly easy thing to do.

On the one hand, I am someone who makes decisions about my work as I go along. When I start sewing a quilt top, I generally have no idea what the binding will be, let alone what thread I will use to quilt it. 

When I looked at the bundles that other people had chosen, many of their choices seemed obvious. Many of them have a signature colour range and the threads reflected that. If I'm honest, my use of colour in quilts tends to be a bit all over the place. I normally choose colours, fabrics and by default threads to suit a pattern rather than writing patterns to go with specific fabrics.

I thought about choosing threads for a specific project, but that was not an option as when I made my choice, all off my projects were ones which required secrecy for a few more months.

That said, I do have a tendency towards teals, aquas, greens and blues, I guess you could call it my colour comfort zone. As such, this seemed like a logical place to start. I went for a variegated green thread as I have really enjoyed quilting with variegated aurifil recently. Where I normally treat the background and the foreground differently when quilting, variegated thread allows me the freedom to quilt over the subject without it looking too intrusive.

My next choice was a neutral grey- always practical and a good fallback for those times when you don't have the exact colour that you want to press on with a project without waiting ages for thread to arrive.

 Next up was a light thread for those times that I am quilting low volume backgrounds. Although white is generally a perfectly acceptable choice for this, it is fun to more closely match the background. This is also a colour that I will consider using when quilting the light feather or fur details on birds and animals.

I wanted to add a pop to the bundle and have been really drawn towards deep rich blue tones recently. This was the final colour chosen for the bundle, but it has to be the one that I am most looking forward to sewing with. Isn't it stunning?


When I stood back and looked at my bundle together, they reminded me of the source of so much of my inspiration- the great outdoors. I saw the amazing blue of a Summer sky in New Zealand, the varied greens of the countryside, a hint of cloud and the grey of a threatening storm or a scree field. I pulled all these influences together and called my bundle Mountain Air.

If you are interested in joining the club and getting your hands on my bundle, you will find all the details at http://www.msmidge.com.au/aussieaurifilclub/.

You can choose to have the threads in any of the thread weights - 50, 40, 28 or 12.
It is your choice whether you receive small or large spools.
There are options there for Australia and New Zealand. If anyone from another country wishes to subscribe they can email Melissa and she will set it all up (there is a contact form on her blog).


Saturday, March 12, 2016

The "Right" Way to Paper Piece

I've been saddened a few times this week by people telling me that they have given up on paper piecing after well meaning quilters have told them that they are doing it "the wrong way". This makes me so mad, because in my opinion there are very few "wrong" ways to paper piece but thousands and thousands of right ways to do it.

Does your paper piecing fall apart straight away because you have skimped on your 1/4 inch allowance?- Then yes, you need to alter your methods.

Do your seams pop because you use large stitches and place too much strain on the seams when you remove the paper?- Yup, you guessed it! You need to alter your technique.

Do you have a build up of fabric on the back of your quilt because you are too lazy to trim your seam allowances, then perhaps you need to rethink your methods as quilting your work of art will be no fun at all!

Here's the kicker though... Do you paper piece using a method that was taught to you by an expert, but you have to unpick almost as much as you sew? Then I would suggest that you need to alter your methods too.

The thing is, it is all about finding a method that works for you.

Have a look at the paper piecing tutorials on youtube and blogs. Virtually all of them have variations. Some people precut their fabric accurately, others just wham a large piece of fabric on and hope for the best. Is one of those methods "the right way"? I'm sure that the quilting police would say that the first method is the best, but at the end of the day, does it matter? In this case, the same result is achieved no matter what you do (there is just a slightly smaller chance of having to resew if you cut your fabric more generously!)

I respect Diane of From Blank Pages immensely. She does amazing amazing paper piecing. I am constantly impressed with the beauty and precision of her work. She precuts her fabrics using cutting templates and every step of her process is accurate and precise. I WISH I could sew her way, but I can't! With the greatest respect in the world, it would drive me absolutely bonkers. I need to allow a lot more wiggle room and I am far more prone to making it up as I go along.

Does that mean that she is wrong? Of course not!
Does it mean that I am wrong- Absolutely not!

There are many other paper piecers, who paper piece using methods different to my own. I could go on to name them all and to analyse the differences between their technique and my own. But what would be the point?

We all do what works for us.

So lets all agree to disagree. Can we please encourage our fellow quilters rather than attacking them.

Yes, its good to help people improve their technique, but before you open your mouth, stop and think whether or not your advice is needed.

After all, quilting is supposed to be fun isn't it?!?

What about you? Have you been discouraged by well meaning advice?

(For those who are curious, the photos in this post are from another new pattern that is in the pipeline.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Playing with Scale

As you may recall, when my bundle of Alison Glass Indigo Handcrafted fabrics arrived, it spoke to me. It demanded to be used as the ocean in a quilt and it suggested that a seahorse might be a good idea for the foreground.

The design was always going to be large scale. I guess that the initial reason for this was that I wanted to make good use of the fabric bundle, but there was more than that. I didn't want the designs on the indigo fabrics to swamp the seahorse.

I wanted the different shades of blue to represent the many shades that can be seen when light glints in the water.
I wanted the small round and cross designs on the fabric to be like particles floating in the water.
I wanted to flying geese to mimic fishes.
I wanted the straight lines to appear like seaweed.

A large scale seahorse just seemed to fit with this idea.

The question was how big could I make the design and still work with a fat quarter bundle of fabrics. I took a punt and decided to make the quilt 50" x 50". A small amount of fudging was required to make it work, but I am glad to say that I didn't need to buy any extra fabric.

When the quilt was finished I had a small pile of scraps left. Considering how much I loved the fabric, it seemed a shame to waste to them.

I decided to fly by the seat of my pants and see if I could get another block out of the fabrics. I had a small amount of oakshott cotton in rich blue colours which could come to the rescue if required (they weren't!).

My plan was to experiment and have fun so I chose to sew another seahorse, but a 14 inch one. I thought it would be a fun to see how the scale of the fabrics affected the finished result.

I'll admit that I wasn't sure how well it would turn out. I was a bit worried that the seahorse would be swamped by the designs on the indigo fabrics, but it turned out better than expected.

Honestly, I think that the large scale block works better with these fabrics, but the small one works a lot better than I expected, and that's the point! To me, its important never to stop experimenting and never to stop pushing the boundaries. Don't play it safe- go against your instincts sometimes and see what happens.

Each time that I make rules about fabric selection, I end up changing my mind in the future. When I first started paper piecing, I couldn't imagine using prints as I thought they would interfere with the designs. Then I learnt to use blender fabrics and now I throw all sorts of crazy fabrics in there. I guess that this is the reason that I am reluctant to build up too a huge fabric stash. Yes it's convenient to be able to pull any fabric that I want at a moment's notice, but tastes change and what I like now is not what I liked a year ago.

When it comes to fabric and colour selection, I tend to trust my gut. I generally have a rough plan, but it is never ever cut in stone and there is always a lot of wiggle room. It's definitely fair to say that I make it up as I go along.

That said, ignoring my gut can be important at times. It can lead to inspiration or it can lead to mistakes and if nothing else, I invariably learn from those mistakes.


I'll continue to use my scraps and to play and to have fun with it. Who knows what will come next!

I'm linking up with Leanne and Nicky at Scraptastic Tuesday

And also with Afton at Quilting Mod
Quilting Mod

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting Back into Sewing

Tuesday was a big day in our house.

Child number 2 started school. 

For months I've been feeling kind of sad about it, I mean my baby was starting school. 

I was a bit nervous about how I would feel having him at school (even though I knew in my heart of hearts that he was well and truly ready to start school).

He stopped preschool on 23rd December and spent the majority of the Summer holidays at home with me and his big sister. As I watched them play together I could clearly see how eager he is to learn and how ready he is in so so many ways. (Yes, his ears don't always work, but he's a 5 year old boy and I am confident that these will work better for a teacher than they do for me!)

I guess that before the Summer holidays he was ready for school, it took the Summer holidays for me to catch up and be ready too!

He is excited and confident about starting school and having observed him over the last wee while it is impossible for me not to feel the same way for him.

There were no tears (from anyone) on Tuesday, just smiles and excitement.

I am glad that I took the Summer holidays off from blogging and only did minimal sewing. I think I needed the time to focus and to recharge. I have included photos of my few small sewing projects in this blog post and the patterns for these will follow very shortly.

Now that the school Summer holidays are over, I am really excited to get back to sewing.

For me, having two school children means more time to work on my quilting and patterns. I am really excited about this year and have quite a few exciting things planned.

I have a couple of commissioned pieces which have been designed but not yet sewn and which will appear in printed publications later this year.

I am entering my first piece in a quilting challenge (my entry is sewn and I absolutely love it, but I can't show it to you yet... sorry!) The theme of the challenge is "Flight"- how could I not enter?

I have a whole heap of patterns that I am working on and on top of that, I have a few talking and teaching gigs coming up later in the year (more details to follow soon...).

Last year was a big year for me. I will admit that I started the year with a list of things that I wanted to achieve and if I am honest, I didn't achieve that many of them. That said, what I did do was grow my business and prove to myself and my husband that there is a market for my patterns out there. I managed to grow both my confidence and my brand. If the year had turned out differently, then I might be talking about getting a job now and taking a step back from quilting. Instead I am wanting to take this quilting lark more seriously.

Who knows where this year will take me, I am looking forward to sharing my progress with you all.

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