Thursday, February 16, 2017

Project Quilting 8: The Brighter the Better

We are already at challenge number 4 in Season 8 of Project Quilting and so far, I've been having a great time with these.  Nothing like a super tight deadline to get the creative juices flowing (and increase your stress level just a bit!).

This week, the theme is "The Brighter the Better" - we were encouraged to use bright colours for our quilted project.

I thought about it for a little bit, but then it dawned on me that I wanted to make more mug rugs (they are seriously so fun) to have on hand for quick presents or raffle prizes at Montreal MQG meetings. What could be more fun than a rainbow of mug rugs?  Nothing!  :-)

I made small slabs in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple.  Each one measures 7 inches wide by 6 inches high and I quilted them with organic wavy lines with the walking foot.

Every one of them made with nothing but scraps - even the binding and the backing.

That means I have now completed 13 scrappy projects so far this year.  Yay me!  And here's my pink mug rug from a couple of weeks ago hanging out with the new mug rugs.  Nice set don't you think?

I will be linking up at Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday and at A Quarter Inch from the Edge for TGIFF this week.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Meet the FAL 2017 Hosts: Jess of Elven Garden

During the whole FAL year, we will introduce you to the different hosts - it's always fun to read the story behind the blog or the IG username. This month, we are getting better acquainted with Jess of Elven Garden Quilts.

Hi, I'm Jess, otherwise known as Elven Garden Quilts. This is my second year as a FAL host, and although I'm not great at actually participating in the FAL (I have a pretty bad history of not finishing anything on my list!), it's great to be back to cheer you all along for a second year. I thought this was going to be a really hard post to write - but once I got started it was surprisingly easy. So I've inserted photos of some of my favorite quilts in amongst the text - feel free to skim the words if you'd rather just look at quilts ;o).

I'm a 36 year old mum of three not-so-small people - my eldest son (12 year old) started high school this year (grade 7), and I have a 9 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. Needless to say, moments of sewing have been few and far between over the last few months while they've had their summer holidays - but they went back to school last week, so there is some semblance of normality in our household again :o). I have an incredible partner too, who encourages me in all my quilty endeavours and listens patiently when I ramble on about my current projects. We also have two fur babies - Shadow and Pepper, our little quilt-cats, who spend at least 90% of their time asleep on various quilts and cushions around the house! I'll often go back to hand stitch binding and find my quilt has been invaded by cats ;o).

We live in Tasmania, Australia - that little island that sits off the southern coast of mainland Australia. It's a beautiful place to live - we don't have a huge population and we are surrounded by some of the most gorgeous wilderness in the world (in my humble opinion!). I grew up in a pretty arty/crafty family - my Dad studied ceramics at Art School and is an art teacher at a college, and my mum has always been involved with some sort of textile art. She made most of our clothes as kids, and is now obsessed with spinning and knitting all kinds of gorgeous yarn. So it's kinda unsurprising that I've grown up to be a maker.

Although I have a science degree (and work as a lab technician part time), I've always enjoyed making stuff. I started cross stitching when I was quite young, and continued that hobby right through to my university years. It wasn't until I had my youngest child that I decided to get a sewing machine - with the intention of making clothes and toys for my kids. I had fun doing this for a while, but then on a whim I bought a beginner's quilting magazine and that was the beginning of a true obsession. For me, quilting is the perfect marriage of maths and art - I love numbers and I love working with colour, so it's not surprising it has overtaken all of my spare time!

I started quilting around 5 or 6 years ago - and back when I started, my tiny sewing room overlooked the garden - so Elven Garden Quilts was born! After a few years, I outgrew that little room, so my 'studio' is now our garage - not the prettiest location, but I can be as messy as I want (and believe me, the term creative chaos fits me perfectly!) and close the door on it so no one else has to be subjected to it ;o).

I first started blogging for a few reasons. Mainly because I didn't actually know anyone who quilted and I didn't want to bore my family and friends to tears constantly talking about my quilts, and blogging was the perfect way to share what I was making. But it quickly became a way to connect with people all over the world who shared my passion. I'm ever in awe of how supportive and wonderful the online quilting community is, and my life would be very different if I hadn't started blogging. I am a self-taught quilter, thanks to the enormous generosity of so many people in sharing tutorials and ideas, and a love of trying to figure out how to make things work!

I loosely call myself a modern quilter - although I've made plenty of quilts that are far more traditional than modern! I think I'm probably best known for my love of free motion quilting - everything I piece is quilted to death on my domestic Bernina. About three years ago, I was actually invited to become a Bernina Ambassador here in Australia, which is an incredible honour :o). I have several free motion quilting tutorials available on my YouTube channel - and I plan on doing a lot more of these this year! I've been teaching patchwork and quilting classes on a weekly basis for the last three years (although I'm currently having a break, after burning out from a pretty hefty teaching load last year), which is something I absolutely love.

Last year was a big year for me as a quilter, both on a professional and personal level. I won several awards for my quilts at some of our national quilt shows (the Australian Modern Quilt Show and the Australian Machine Quilting Festival), and I taught a lot of classes - both patchwork and free motion quitling. On the personal side of things, I feel like I really grew as a quilter. Although I've always loved making quilts and been happy with the finished product, I've struggled to find my style. But in the last half of last year I feel like I started to find my voice, and started making quilts that are more 'me' than ever before. Although I've always used and loved my design wall, I now rely on it constantly as a tool to design my quilts. Aviatrix is one of the last quilts I made using someone else's pattern - and I think it will be the last for a fairly long time. I'm enjoying doing my own thing so much right now!

The last few quilts I've made (and my current work in progress) all started as a vague idea and a giant pile of fabric, and relied on my design wall to figure out what they would become. You can read all about the process I went through when making Scattered (shown below) herehere, here and here. And if you're attending QuiltCon this year, please go say hi to her - she was juried into the show which is enormously exciting!

I recently wrote about the process of making one of my recent finishes, Flow. Again this quilt started as a pile of fabric and a very vague idea (as in, I knew I wanted to use improv curves), but the design came together through trial and error.

Although I'm much better at starting and finishing projects than I used to be (which isn't to say I don't have any WIPs - there are lots of those!), I work best when don't feel like I *have* to work on a particular project. Which is probably why I make FAL lists and then largely ignore them... Having said that, I have several projects that have been ignored for far too long that I do want to finish this year, so next quarter you can expect me to fully participate and knock over some very long term WIPs!

Thanks for letting me introduce myself (and my quilts!), and I look forward to cheering you all on this year as you work through your FAL lists!

xx Jess

Monday, February 6, 2017

Stash Report - January

Back in December, when I wrote that my goals for this year would be to sew my stash and use up my scraps, I also said I would report on these goals at least monthly.  So here is my January report.

I had a very successful month... First, let's talk scraps.

I made five blocks for the #52weekswiththequiltersplanner sew along and used nothing but scraps in these blocks.

I completed three small projects for Project Quilting - again, all made with scraps and fat quarters I had in my stash.

You can read about each finish by clicking it's name below:

I created a banner for my word of the year using all scraps, including the background, the binding and the backing.  (Note: The decluttering is going very well. Kitchen is all done and I've gotten rid of a bunch of stuff.)

So that is four finished projects made from scraps.

As for my stash, I didn't buy any fabric this month and used up 3.5 yards from my stash.

Not a bad start right?  :-)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Project Quilting 8: Tuned in to Texture

For Project Quilting this week, we were asked to open our eyes and tune in to the different patterns and textures "in the wild" which could be inspiration for a quilt or quilted item.  You can read the blog post here.

The same day I read that blog post by Persimon Dreams, I heard the news that a crazy gunman had murdered 6 and injured 5 others in a mosque right down the highway from where I live.  The news shocked and terrified me and all of the sudden, everything was just ugly and scary and sad.

Then I got an email from the President of the Montreal MQG.  "How about we make some quilts for those families?" I immediately felt better - there was something I could do to bring a little joy, a little love. And the response from the quilting community was amazing. Not that it is surprising at all - us quilters sure know how to come together when our neighbours are hurting. (If you'd like to learn more about the #quiltsforqc initiative, go here.)

All that to say that when I came home after work on Monday, I felt a little bit better.  And as I sat down to the dinner table that night, my eyes stopped on a beautiful bouquet of flowers my hubby bought for me just a few days before (he's a wonderful man who buys me flowers every single week). That's when I knew I found my "pattern".

I decided to make a big, white, happy flower and turn it into a pillow cover.  I started by piecing some green scraps into a background for the foliage.  I traced the petals on white fabric and appliqued them to the green background using my FMQ foot.  I then added some texture by quilting flowers in the border and foliage.

The binding is a pink stripe from the Good Neighbors collection designed by Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts.  I love that fabric collection!

Here's a close-up of the flower.  Definitely not my best work, but I'm very happy with it because it got done!!  And now I have a cute pillow for my sewing room!

I will be submitting this finish for voting at Project Quilting 8 over at Persimon Dreams.

And I will also link it up at Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday and at Summer Lee Quilts for TGIFF.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pink Scrappy Mug Rugs

There are a number of projects I really should be working on right now - I haven't even started cutting my fabric for the Metro Challenge which is due for the March meeting of the Montreal MQG, I've only made two blocks for the Missing U quilt I'm making with Amy of The Turquoise Button and my mom's bed runner hasn't received any of my attention since Christmas.

But I seem to be going through a bit of a quilting funk this week.  I come downstairs every evening once the whole family is asleep and I sit and watch TV instead of sewing.

Last night however I was looking around at my sewing room and spotted my pink scrap bin sitting on my cutting table. And not far from it, some left over batting from my Carolina Lily quilt.  Then I remembered an Instagram post from my friend Shannon of s.f. Designs who makes the cutest mug rugs in the world!  :-)  (Seriously, check out that little owl mug rug she made this week!)

Before bed, I had two pink mug rugs - one for home and one for the office...

These were incredibly fun to make and they are adorable!!

Some of my very favourite fabrics are in there and it was so nice to use the small pieces to make something for myself.

And with that, I am once again motivated to make progress on my WIPs and get some bigger finishes off my FAL list.

How to you get out of a quilting funk?  Do you have small projects you turn to for a creativity booster?

These mug rugs may be small, but I think they should be celebrated too! So I'll be linking up at Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday and at Faith and Fabric for TGIFF.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Project Quilting 8: The Carolina Lily

This week, the inspiration for Project Quilting 8 was the Carolina Lily. You can see the post here. The first thing I did was to do a little research on the web to see if that would spark an idea. And I found this beautiful picture.

With this picture in mind, I started thinking about how I was going to re-create this with fabric and thread. I could appliqué the flower using scraps, but appliqué isn’t my favourite thing in the world so I started thinking about a whole cloth quilt with very dense quilting in orange, red, yellow and green. But I’m not very good at drawing and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make my quilting look like a flower.

And then a lightbulb moment!! What if I created a pixelated image of the flower with fabric? I played with my graph paper and pencils for a little bit and came up with this.

My next step was to take out my orange, red, yellow and green scrap bins.  I started by cutting 2” squares and laying them out on my cutting mat but still… something just wasn’t right.

So I paired my squares and created HSTs and loved that! Many little HSTs later and I had a mini quilt that somewhat resembled that original picture.

But once all those HSTs were sewn together, it still looked really blah to me and none of the fabrics I was auditioning looked good for the binding.  Enter Kona White and a 5” border!

I think giving the piecing in the center a nice, clean white background allowed all those colours to shine.  The white also brought order to the chaos and I find it’s now easier to see the Carolina Lily. I even asked my daughter to tell me what she saw when she looked at it (she had no idea what the inspiration was) and she immediately said "A flower!" And the Kona Charcoal I used for the binding frames everything like a picture frame!

When it came time to quilt it, I had a lot of fun.  I didn’t want to add any more colour to this design so used Aurifil Dove (#2600) to quilt some flowers in the middle and Aurifil White (#2021) for some wood grain in the border. I am extremely happy with the results.

Quilt Stats:

  • Pattern: my own design (inspired by the picture above)
  • Size: 22” x 24”
  • Fabrics: scraps (middle), Kona White (border), Kona Charcoal (binding)
  • Thread: pieced with Aurifil #2600; quilted with Aurilfil #2600 and #2021 50 wt.

I will be linking up over at Project Quilting for Challenge 8.2, over at Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday and at Busy Hands Quilts for TGIFF.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Meet the 2017 FAL Hosts: Nicky of Mrs Sew & Sow...

During the whole FAL year, we will introduce you to the different hosts - it's always fun to read the story behind the blog or the IG username. :-)  We are starting out with Nicky of Mrs Sew & Sow...

Don't be shy about paying Nicky a visit over on her blog and say Hi!

Hi !  My name is Nicky Eglinton and I'm one of the global 2017 Finish-A-Along hosts.  This is my second year as co-host so I should know what I'm doing.  

I live in the South of England but was born in bonnie Scotland and after a few years studying in Aberdeen and Glasgow, I came to London to get my first job!   I loved the theatres, cinema, restaurants, walking across Waterloo Bridge and looking one way at the Houses of Parliament and the other way at St Paul's. Life was good!

Houses of Parliament to the left, 

the dome of St. Paul's to the right

Since then I have moved even further south and out of the hubbub of the City to the quiet more rural life of Sussex to raise a family with hubby.   It has suited us well and we have three lovely children and a cat and a dog!   Here are the pets in portrait and 'helping' me quilt!

Saffy and Maddie

In my childhood I learnt to stitch from my mother - first toys, and cross stitch, then clothes in my teens and twenties (back then it was actually cheaper to do that). 

Meet Dandelion - I still have him!

She also taught me knitting and crochet.  She loved passing on her skills though we struggled at times as she was right handed and I was left handed.  Every thing I did looked wrong to her as I was doing it in what seemed an awkward way....and there were very few lefthanded tools to help!  So I now prefer right handed scissors - in fact I cannot use lefthanded ones!!

Jumping forward a bit, to maintain my sanity after kid no 1, I went to an evening class about patchwork and quilting.  My chance to talk with grown ups!   I was completely in love with applique!   It was all I did!  And then I ended up on a course at  The Quilt Room to make this quilt in 2005!  


Friendship's Garden Quilt

by Alma Allen & Cherie Ralston

The applique was easy for me but would you believe I was terrified of the HST border round each block and the quilt remained in pieces, and on several FAL lists.

Carolyn Forster taught me piecing and introduced me to blogging!   Wow has she got a lot to answer for!   I started blogging as I wanted to record my stitching and gardening - hence my blog name Mrs Sew and Sow!

The sewing has taken over somewhat but this year I will be back in my garden and bringing lots of flowers into the house!  Wonder if a flower bed can count as a WIP or UFO??   What do you think?

Well back to that quilt I started in 2005 I kept moving it from one FAL list to the next!  I have joined up with the FAL since the beginning - though I may have missed a few quarters - and it has helped enormously - mainly from all the encouragement I received from commenters who have become friends.  

Suddenly it became the time to finish that quilt!  I even had to learn FMQ in order to do it !   

And here it is!  So all of you who have longterm WIPs/UFOs do not despair!

Finishing that longstanding UFO was like a release - it had been a block hanging over me!   I started actually finishing more stuff.   

Since 2012 I have been keen to meet up with people, and join in the quilting  community.  I went to the Fat Quarterly Retreats in London and learnt about the Siblings Together charity.  I have been making quilts for the charity since then - one or two to begin with, then I joined a bee to make more, helped others finish quilts and finally last year Maria and I were leading the campaign to make 100 quilts for the charity.  

The charity helps children in the UK social care system retain bonds with their siblings at holiday camps.  They are given a quilt to remind them of the fun times together.  

We will be aiming to make another 100 quilts in 2017 with help from a generous community of quilters !   Would you like to join us?  You can find more information here and here!

I love scraps and have been running a monthly link up, #Scraptastictuesday, on the second Tuesday of every month, with my co host Leanne (who also hosts FAL).  We like to celebrate the origins of patchwork, though Leanne uses scraps in more of an improv way than I do but you will find all sorts of inspiration there! 

I am a scrappy quilter for ecological and economical reasons!  I like to hang onto those pounds and pence and keep my scraps out of the landfill sites!    And I just love cramming as many different fabrics as possible into one quilt.  

We would love you to join us with your scrappy projects (they don't need to be finished), plans, and storage systems.

I try to make a scrappy sampler quilt each year with tutorials showing you how to make your own!  2015 is finished and 2016 is basted ready for a finish this quarter I hope!

Liberty Sampler 2015 & Karen Lewis Sampler 2016

And now I'm setting up a local group of stitchers in Sussex with my friends and co-founders Kelly and Jane and we are actually going to meet up and stitch together in a room!   And eat cake!   With no children !  It is starting this month !

I seem to have made lots of quilts.  I find the creative process both stimulating and therapeutic.  I do tend to make up my own patterns though on occasion if I love something I will try to make my own version of it.

Here are some of my favourite quilt finishes

Top Left : Nordik Quilt; Top Right & Clockwise:  Double Sided Welsh Blanket Quilt in Karen Lewis Textiles, pattern by Mary Emmens;  Hand stitched and quilted scrappy clamshell quilt;  Vintage Squares quilt; Stingy Bee Row Quilt  (both this and Nordik were made with help from members of Bee a Brit Stingy )

And here is one I hope to finish this coming quarter!  It is my take on the traditional Double Wedding Ring (my own variation) - a lot of it stitched by hand!  I used acryllic templates made by Marti Michell to help with the cutting and designing of these blocks.

Hoopla! Quilt

My FAL list is always a long one (yes I am a member of Archie the Wonder Dog's #ridiculouslylongFAList ) as when I used to choose a few items for my list I always wanted to work on something else!  Much easier to keep everything out in the open I found!

I hope you will join us on our journey to complete those listed projects and I look forward to seeing your finishes!  Remember to cheer on the rest of the community - it really does make a difference!