Finishing the Iggy Marley art quilt

27 01 2020

Another art quilt I started in 2018 is now finished! I did Susan Carlson’s workshop in May 2018 and created Iggy Marley, a Jamaican iguana, from fabric scraps. His body was pretty much finished by the time I finished the workshop, but it took a long time to get the inspiration for how to do the background. Iggy sat on my design wall for ages, waiting for the inspiration to come.

I actually did the background some time back—painting direct onto the duck/canvas fabric. But then I was faced with the dilemma of ‘how to quilt it?’, so he sat on the design wall for many more months. Eventually I decided to do stitch a jumble of leaves in the green background and perhaps pebbles in the brown dirt. To give a lot of body and texture to the quilt, I had already put batting behind him and quilted the major parts of the body, the tree trunk, and around the leaves. To add even more body—and to stabilise the quilt—I added a large piece of foam stabiliser (such as ‘Soft and Stable’) and backing fabric, then quilted over it all again, making sure everything that needed to be stitched down, was. I was still in a dilemma regarding the quilting for the background.

Some weeks later, I bit the bullet and stitched a heap of small leaves in the green background. And I hated them! They were SO busy, and detracted from Iggy, who needed to be the star of the show. So I unpicked those 10,000-plus stitches… watching two movies and a 4-part TV series in the process (the dark but compelling ‘Lambs of God’). Fortunately, fabric is pretty forgiving, so with some shaking, gentle patting, some water and some steam, all the needle holes from that stitching eventually covered over. And there he sat on my design wall, again. Waiting for inspiration. Again.

Finally the inspiration came when I saw one of Pam Holland‘s art quilts on Facebook—she had done very narrow vertical stitching, and that inspired me to do the same on Iggy. But I didn’t want to use vertical stitching for the entire green background so I decided to stitch some more large leaves, echoing the size and shapes of the painted leaves. Then I stitched all the vertical lines, nice and close together. I decided to do the same for the foreground, this time stitching horizontal lines in a soft brown. Now he was done!

Except for how to finish him off—do I add a binding? (no, too traditional), or do I add a facing? I’d never done a faced quilt before, so I experimented first on the vintage doily quilt, then once I had the technique down, I experimented on a scrap piece of foam, with batting, backing and the same duck/canvas I used for the top, and stitched with similar quilting. I wanted to make sure that I could turn a facing over all that thickness and not mess it up. I certainly didn’t have a lot of extra space at the top and bottom of Iggy to work with, so messing it up wasn’t an option. It worked, so I got to and finished him off with facing.

He’s going into a local art exhibition next month (textile category), and then I might put him up for sale in my Etsy store. His finished dimensions are 85 x 57 cm (33.5 x 22.5 inches). My Mum REALLY likes him 🙂

 





Finishing a vintage doily art quilt

27 01 2020

Back in April 2018, I attended Empty Spools at Asilomar (Pacific Grove, California), and was part of the 5-day class run by Cindy Needham. One of the small pieces I worked on in that class was a vintage doily on a soft taupe background. I did most of the quilting on it in class, but it has sat in my sewing room, incomplete, since I returned. Well, I finally decided to finish it off. There was only a small amount of cross-hatch stitching to do on the background, plus trimming it square and facing it (I didn’t want a binding on it, so I used this excellent facing method from Robbi Joy Ecklow: https://weallsew.com/make-quilt-facing/). Then I hand stitched down the loose edges of the doily.

I’ve called it ‘Enter the peacock’. I might put it up for sale in my Etsy store after it’s been exhibited next month in a local art exhibition (textile category). Final dimensions are approximately 50 x 50 cm (about 19 inches square)

One issue I had—and it was a major one—was that I’d used a blue Clover chaco chalk wheelie thing to mark the layout of the quilt in preparation for squaring it up and facing it. Then I’d sprayed a lot of water and used a hot iron to press down those facings so they weren’t going to move. What I didn’t realise was that the blue chalk was now EMBEDDED in the taupe fabric and it just wouldn’t come out. Normally, quilting gets rid of it, but this piece was already quilted, and by me using water and then IRONING the piece before getting the chalk out, I’d ‘set’ the chalk.

I spent hours testing various methods to get it out. Some of the things I tried based on some Googling (from least intrusive to most intrusive, testing small parts of the chalk-marked fabric at a time):

  • magic eraser (no effect)
  • fabric eraser (no effect)
  • eraser end of a Frizion gel pen (yes, it has an eraser!) (no effect)
  • vinegar/water mix (no effect)
  • dishwashing detergent (no effect)
  • hand washing detergent (no effect)
  • carpet cleaner (some effect)
  • CLR remover (no effect)
  • pre-wash laundry stain remover (Sard Degreaser Pre-Wash in Australia) (some effect).

What eventually worked (well, for 90% of it) was soaking the chalk lines with a pre-wash stain remover, then while it was still wet with that, making a think slurry/paste of Napisan and water and rubbing that into the marks as well. The quilt was really quite wet by now, but I left it for a good 30 minutes, then rinsed it out numerous times in cold water, giving the chalk areas a good rub with my knuckles to add the element of friction. Then I blocked it on the design wall and left it for a day to dry. There are still some residual blue marks, but they’re much harder to see now.

Click a photo to show it larger.





Finishing off an art quilt started in NZ

27 01 2020

Last October (2019) I attended the Quilt Symposium in Auckland, and one of the classes I took was a 2-day whole cloth mosaic class with Chris Kenna, a NZ quilt artist. I got the top completed in the two days, but it’s taken until now to finish the quilt ready for exhibiting in a local art awards (textile category) and then perhaps putting it up for sale in my Etsy store. The final dimensions are approx 1 m x 1m, so it’s fairly big! I’ve called it ‘We need the bees’.

Some of the things I did to complete it:

  • Made the quilt sandwich. I used a large piece of handbag foam (I don’t know what else you call it; an example is ‘Soft and Stable’) as the wadding and plain black fabric for the backing. The foam added a lot of stability to the quilt, stopping it from curling with the density of the quilting, yet keeping the whole piece light and tactile.
  • Free-motion quilted (FMQ’d) over the existing design on the top in matching threads.
  • FMQ’d more petals in between the appliqued petals, using threads that matched the colours in the appliqued petals.
  • FMQ’d the bee, using silver thread for its wings.
  • FMQ’d the black background, leaving an area immediately around the bee unquilted.
  • Squared up the quilt, and added a black binding in the same fabric as the top and back.

Click on a photo to view it larger.





I have called her ‘Christine’

23 01 2020

Warning—long!

I bought my current car (2008 model) in 2012 from my parents when they upgraded to an SUV around the time my Dad had a hip replacement and needed a car that was easier to get into and out of. It’s served me well and has given me almost no bother (except a couple of small light globes going out) in the 9 years I’ve had it. Until now. Now I think she’s slightly possessed, so I’ve called her ‘Christine’.

It all started when I went on a quilting retreat at the beginning of this month. This retreat is some 3 hours’ drive from where I live. I parked my car in their car park and except for the first night when I drove it into town, didn’t go near the car the four days I was there. When I went to pack the car at 6am to leave later that morning, I couldn’t open the car with the key fob. Nothing. My first thought was the battery in the key fob was dead, or the car battery was dead. I remembered there was an emergency key in the fob, so pulled that out and opened the driver’s door. I put my fob in the ignition and turned it on. Nothing. Not even the ‘whrr’ sound of a dead battery.

At 7am I called the RAC (I’m a member, but as I found out, not a ‘high enough’ member, despite some <mumble> decades since I joined at age 17). They said someone from a nearby country town would be out in about 90 minutes. Two hours later and no-one had arrived, so I called them again. They told me the guy was sick and couldn’t come until at least the afternoon, but I could pay an extra $130 for someone to come from another town, and it would be another 2 hours at least before they got there (where I was staying is only an hour from Perth, so these times seemed a bit odd). I said I’d wait for the local guy, but in the meantime would call my dealership.

I described the symptoms to the service manager, and she said it may not be battery at all, but possibly the steering system, in which case a battery recharge from the RAC may not even work, and if it did, I’d have to drive straight to the dealership with NO stops along the way. So now the question was how to get the car to the dealership (remember, it’s 3 hours’ drive away) so they could assess it. Yes, there are some dealerships in Perth, but then I’d still have to get the car to Perth and then collect it from Perth at a later date. Having it local was really the only way to go.

Back on the phone to the RAC to change my request from roadside assistance (for a battery kickstart) to towing. The RAC person was most helpful and gave me quotes for getting the car to Perth (around $300) and to the dealership close to home ($800). And told me that my membership level meant I was only eligible for a free tow in the Perth metro area for up to 80 km round trip. (One reason I haven’t gone to a higher level is their restriction on towing to the metro area only—it’s useless if you’re outside Perth). My service manager said if I got the car to the dealership in Perth, then they could get it from there for $160 on a car carrier, for a total of around $460. But all this was a lot of running around and having to be picked up by my other half (OH), who already had a 6-hour round trip in front of him to collect me from the retreat location. Extra trips back and forth to Perth weren’t really practical.

Did I mention that phone reception at the retreat is poor, which meant going outside to make/take calls, and it was 42C that day, and I was in semi-panic mode?

I bit the bullet and decided to go with the tow direct to my local dealership. The towing guy from the nearby town called me shortly after and we got that all sorted—he would pick up the car the next morning (it was already 1:30pm by now and too late for him to get it to the dealership before they closed). I waited for my OH to get to me (that was an exercise in itself, as he’d never been there before), and we drove back home.

Next day, my car got delivered to the dealership by noon, and the service manager called me later that afternoon to say it was ready to pick up the next day. The steering system wasn’t at fault (thank goodness as that would’ve cost an arm and a leg), but the battery was severely compromised and they had to put their super-duper charger on it to get any response. They were all gobsmacked that the battery was dated 2008, and was the original one! It lasted 12 years, which was amazing. They replaced the old battery with a new one, and I drove the car home.

The service manager also told me that someone had very slightly touched my car’s front bumper with theirs and that the dealership would pay for it to be repainted. She showed me the damage, and it was a minor paint scrape at worst. But she insisted that they would get it fixed for me and we arranged for me to bring the car in the following Wednesday afternoon. I went about my normal business, going to the shops on Friday and again on Monday, with nothing untoward.

Late Tuesday afternoon, my OH went into the garage to get some drinks from the fridge and didn’t turn on the light. This was a blessing in hindsight, as he noticed that my car’s right rear tail light was reflecting back from the closed garage door. He called me and we noticed that the front right parking light was also on. I locked the car, unlocked it, relocked it, but no matter what I did those lights would come back on and start flashing intermittently. The service department at the dealership was about to close for the day, so I called the service manager right away. She got me to try some stuff with the headlamp switch but that made no difference, so she said to bring the car in straight away and hand it off to one of the other staff. Fortunately, she had a loan car available for me, so I was able to get home. Remember, I’d already booked the car in to go to the panel shop late Wednesday.

On Wednesday she called and said they were able to get the car into the panel shop right then, and had figured out that the light controller was faulting, causing the brand new battery to drain. After it had been to the panel shop, they got it back to the dealership, and had to wait on a replacement light controller part to arrive from Melbourne (by air to Perth, then road to the dealership some 2 hours’ south of Perth). Once they got that all installed and recharged the battery, I went back in to pay yet another bill (ugh!) and pick up my car on the Thursday.

You’d think that would be the end of it, but not quite yet…

Either later that day or the next day, I decided to put all my stuff back into the car that I’d taken out when it went in to the dealership for the panel work etc. (maps, phone chargers etc.). One of the things I do is keep a mini pack of tissues under a flap in the dashboard where there’s a screen for the audio system etc. I rarely open this flap, and have only done so when I’ve been driving. This is significant. I repack my car with the bits and bobs, including the tissues, then close the car and lock it. The keys are in my hand, and this is a 2008 car, so there’s no ‘talking’ between the fob and the car as there is on more recent vehicles. I turn to go back into the house when I hear music. And it’s coming from inside the car! The CD (yes, this is an older car) that was playing when I last drove it, is now playing again. OK, so that’s weird. And creepy! I call my OH, and we try various things—start the car and move it out of the garage then back in again to see what happens, then turn it off. All is OK. Then I explain to him what I did when I repacked the car, moving the flap open as I do so (the car is off at this point). I lock the car and turn away and the CD starts playing again! At this point, the car becomes ‘Christine’!!!

I call the dealership in a panic fearing that the entire electrical system is out to get me. The assistant service manager answers (my main person is out). She has no idea what’s happening either, so I tell her I’m bringing it in to be checked. Off we go, me in my ‘Christine’ and my OH in his car. I get to the dealership and the service manager is back—she knows exactly what it is, as it happened to her in a similar model car just the day before. It seems if you open the screen flap when the car is off, the auxiliary entertainment system comes on—this allows a passenger waiting in the car to listen to music etc. when the driver is away and has the key fob. And it’s ‘by design’. Who knew?? Certainly not me, even after 9 years owning the car, and when I asked my Dad about it, he said he never knew either. So that was a wasted hour-long round trip for the two of us, but at least we knew the car wasn’t possessed!

While I write this, she’s being a good girl in the garage—no disco lights and music. I’m still calling her ‘Christine’ though.





Busy weekend sewing joey and other wildlife pouches

14 01 2020

The call went out for people to make items for the wildlife carer groups who are trying desperately to save wildlife injured in the devastating bushfires that have claimed so much land and bush on the eastern side of Australia in the past few months. I heeded the call last weekend, as did many many others from within Australia and around the world. So many heeded the call, in fact, that the coordinating group of volunteers had to press ‘pause’ during the weekend to take stock of what they had received and still needed. One Facebook group went from 20,000 members to more than 200,000 members in a matter of days. Even if each person only made 5 items, that’s 1 MILLION items that have to be transported, cleared through Customs (if from outside Australia), checked for correct materials, sized, labelled, sorted, stored, and distributed. And that takes a LOT of storage space (which has to be paid for), and enormous time and energy from a small group of volunteers. I’ll talk about how best you can contribute—if you feel the need to do so—below.

Meantime, I was already well into finishing a 3-day sewing binge converting 15 m of flannelette and 10 to 15 m of fabric from my stash into nearly 20 day and night time joey pouches, and about 10 wildlife pouches in various sizes. I delivered these to my local hub yesterday, and won’t make any more unless there’s another call out for these types of goods.

Some examples of what I made, ably modelled by my teddy and other soft toys:

Daytime hanging pouch for a joey -- the scooped side allows joey to poke out its head to observe the world around it

Daytime hanging pouch for a joey — the scooped side allows joey to poke out its head to observe the world around it

Small wildlife pouch, with 3 removable liners (spares for when others are being washed -- frightened little animals poop... a lot)

Small wildlife pouch, with 3 removable liners (spares for when others are being washed — frightened little animals poop… a lot)

Night-time hanging pouch -- this time there's no scoop. Joey needs to sleep undisturbed and not be tempted to look out into the world.

Night-time hanging pouch — this time there’s no scoop. Joey needs to sleep undisturbed and not be tempted to look out into the world.

The items I made, ready to be bundled, labelled, and given to my local collection hub

The items I made, ready to be bundled, labelled, and given to my local collection hub

YouTube video of how these pouches are used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNNt8ssoTvE

How to contribute if you are outside Australia

NOTE: These are my personal opinions and not any official stance, though I believe they reflect the position of the many groups and charities that have been inundated with donations.

My message to crafters outside Australia:

We love and appreciate the need you have to ‘do something’, but there are some not-so-small logistical and biosecurity issues that could mean all your efforts could end up being wasted. Sending unwashed items, items washed in perfumed detergent, items not made of natural fibres, items with pet hair on them could mean rejection of a whole shipment. We don’t have rabies in Australia nor many insects, lice, ticks, etc. that live in other parts of the world—and we don’t want to introduce any pest to the Australian environment that could severely damage our wildlife and agricultural industries (we haven’t got a good track record with introduced pests… just Google ‘cane toad’).

Although it doesn’t feel like you’re ‘doing something’, money is what’s needed for the ongoing support of human and animal communities that have been devastated by fire. As an example, food needs to be supplied to surviving animals in burnt areas, and this need will continue for many months—this food has to be purchased (if not this week because someone donated it for free, then next week and onwards), transported (often by helicopter because roads are impassable, or the terrain is impenetrable), and put in places of need. That takes MONEY, not craft donations from overseas. We have many many crafters in Australia who are meeting the immediate need for animal pouches etc.

So while we are honoured and humbled that you are all feeling so helpless about the plight of the animals etc. that can’t help themselves, money is a far better contribution you can make. Consider how much you would have spent purchasing the fabric/yarn (or how much you’ve already spent on fabric/yarn in your stash) and the cost of sending the goods to Australia (it’s not cheap!), and donate the monetary value of that instead, if you feel the need to ‘do something’. Or make pet beds, nests, or similar and donate them to your local wildlife carer groups—they also have ongoing needs to help them care for animals, but without any of the recent media coverage.

Money is portable and can be given where it’s most needed based on conditions on the ground, noting that these conditions are changing daily. (For people, some want clothing, some want accommodation and food expenses, some want agistment and feed for their horses, cattle etc.; for animals, some carers need pouches, others need food, water, and/or medical supplies, or industrial washing machines to clean the pouches, carry baskets and containers to allow animals to be transported or to sleep without being disturbed etc.).

Money will be spent in the local communities that are hurting the most, helping their economies get back off the ground. Money can buy food for animals, helping the communities and farmers who have produce that they may not be able to sell otherwise (e.g. fruit and vegetables with smoke taint).

Donated goods of any type have to be stored (requiring massive storage space requirements), and have to be appropriate to needs (e.g. no perishables, ‘as new’ not cast-offs/discards/unwanted clothing or furniture), and then have to be sorted and allocated (a LOT of people and coordination is needed to make that happen) (see here: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/daniel-andrews-tells-people-to-stop-donating-food-and-clothes-for-bushfire-crisis). Consider the situation where someone’s house has burnt to the ground in your neighbourhood—someone says the family needs toys, so hundreds of (used, discarded) toys are donated. But the family is living in a single hotel room with no storage for toys, and don’t have a home where they can store the toys. At that point, toys, especially in large quantities, are next to useless for that family, when they are trying to survive by paying for the hotel room (remember, the parents may have lost their jobs because their place of work has burnt down too or because they can’t turn up to work while they’re trying to deal with this crisis), for food for their family, for clothing to replace what they’e lost, etc. Hundreds of toys are the last thing they need.

If you’re outside Australia, especially if you’re in the US, your dollar will likely buy far more than you expect. Currently (14 Jan 2020), US$100 will buy $144 worth of goods in Australian dollars, so you’re getting a good ‘bang for your buck’.

Here are some lists of registered charities that are accepting donations:

Links last checked 14 Jan 2020





Quilting retreat with friends, Jan 2020

13 01 2020

Each year I go on a couple of private quilting retreats with friends—private in that they are closed groups and by invitation only. One of them is held in January, one of the hottest months in Australia, but where we go has a huge studio room with super bright light and wonderful air conditioning to work in. This year I decided to make some things out of the three jelly rolls of fabric I bought in Bali last September.

Notes to my future self:

  • Use the Jelly Roll Sasher (https://pqw.com.au/product/jelly-roll-sasher/) to make life easier.
  • Invest in a pre-cut/pre-wound roll of batting suitable for this jelly roll technique—it’s SO worth it as the thickness and width are perfect. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s less wear and tear on your machine (and needles), your time, and your sanity!
  • If you do cut your own batting strips as I did initially, try and use only thin batting, and make the width 2.25 inches, NOT 2.5 inches as I did (I then had to cut them down again to 2.25 inches as they were way too thick to go through the jelly roll sasher and/or the sewing machine (I broke a couple of needles…).
  • If you make a rectangular rug or a bag or container, don’t forget to put a few unsewn strips to one side for binding the top and bottom edges (rug), and for handles and to cover the inside seams (bag/container).

First up was a rectangular rug (I made an oval one last January, so this time I wanted to change it up), made with gorgeous aqua toned batiks.

The Jelly Roll Sasher helps keep the fold in place

The Jelly Roll Sasher helps keep the fold in place

 

The first few strips - for a rectangular rug, you stitch each strip separately. You don't join the ends of each strip to the next one

The first few strips – for a rectangular rug, you stitch each strip separately. You don’t join the ends of each strip to the next one

Strips waiting to be matched with batting strips and then stitched

Strips waiting to be matched with batting strips and then stitched

The jelly roll 'dreadlocks'. Eventually you'll have 40 to 42 individually sewn strips.

The jelly roll ‘dreadlocks’. Eventually you’ll have 40 to 42 individually sewn strips.

More strips. I chose to stitch at the edge of the join, not in the middle of each strip as some videos and instructions tell you to do. I like the slight puffiness this gives.

More strips. I chose to stitch at the edge of the join, not in the middle of each strip as some videos and instructions tell you to do. I like the slight puffiness this gives.

Auditioning the colour array. At this stage I was thinking of putting the darker strips on the outside of the rug.

Auditioning the colour array. At this stage I was thinking of putting the darker strips on the outside of the rug.

The final rug. I decided to put the darker strips closer to the centre, and kept aside a couple of unsewn strips for the binding at the top and bottom edges of the rug.

The final rug. I decided to put the darker strips closer to the centre, and kept aside a couple of unsewn strips for the binding at the top and bottom edges of the rug.

Next, I decided to make a bag. That changed when, on the advice of one of the other ladies, I left off the handles and made a large container, into which I think I’ll put the trash can in my sewing room. I love the oranges and purples and pinks and how those colours blend so nicely together. And turning down the top a couple of rows adds extra stability. Stitching through the layers at the bottom was hard, though, and really taxed my machine.

I used a pre-cut/pre-wound roll of jelly roll batting for this second piece.

I used a pre-cut/pre-wound roll of jelly roll batting for this second piece.

The finished container with the top turned over for stability.

The finished container with the top turned over for stability.

The finished container (top not turned over). Size is about 16 inches wide by a similar amount high and about 6 inches across the bottom.

The finished container (top not turned over). Size is about 16 inches wide by a similar amount high and about 6 inches across the bottom. I still have to add a covered piece of stiffening into the base to help stabilise it.

Finally, I made a similar one to the orange one, but this time in blacks, whites, and greys. However, I forgot to leave off about 8 rows so it’s way taller than I expected or liked. I’ve since unpicked those rows and removed them, but have yet to finish this container (my next blog post will explain why…).

The range of colours as per how the roll was put together.

The range of colours as per how the roll was put together.

Jelly roll 'dreadlocks' in the colour order that the fabric came off the jelly roll. This was my original colour plan.

Jelly roll ‘dreadlocks’ in the colour order that the fabric came off the jelly roll. This was my original colour plan.

Next colour audition was gradation from black through the various shades of grey to white---an ombre effect.

Next colour audition was gradation from black through the various shades of grey to white—an ombre effect.

I finally settled on black on the outside, grading to white in the centre.

I finally settled on black on the outside, grading to white in the centre.

The sewn piece, ready to be made into a rug or a bag or a container, or whatever.

The sewn piece, ready to be trimmed and made into a rug or a bag or a container, or whatever.

The container made from the stitched jelly roll piece. It's way too high for a trash container or a bag, so I have to unpick about 8 rows from the top.

The container made from the stitched jelly roll piece. It’s way too high for a trash container or a bag, so I have to unpick about 8 rows from the top.

 

Looking down inside the container. I used a plain grey fabric to cover the open seams.

Looking down inside the container. I used a plain grey fabric to cover the open seams.