Friday, October 19, 2012

A challenge

Quilters do love a challenge and I am no exception. For our Fynbos retreat the challenge was to make a 50 X 50 cm quilt, utilizing a fat quarter of Calico in the process. The theme was: Go Crazy with Calico.

Although I was in charge of organizing the challenge (deciding on the rules, the size, getting sponsors,printing brochures, selling the challenge, organizing the judging etc) I decided to also take part in this.

The Red and White quilt exhibit that was held in the beginning of the year in New York was the inspiration for the quilt I made for this challenge. Now I have my own red and white quilt and although only 50 X 50 cm (about 20 inch square) it can easily be scaled. The quilting do however indicate that it is a small quilt.

Like every quilt this quilt also has a story. While sewing and pressing, some of the red fabric bleed. I immediately realize that I did not washed the red fabric till the water runs clear but that it was to late to do anything. I would just had to be careful and no more starch spraying seeing that I would not be able to wash the starch away- at least not before handing it in for the competition.

Once my stars was completed I measured them to determine the average size. At the IQCAfrica in Johannesburg at the end of July I took a class from Cynthia England. I adapted a method learned from her.  I cut 4 squares from freezer paper of the size of the stars. I ironed it to the front of every square, trying to include all the star points. Now I could sew the blocks together without chopping the points off  but also keeping "straight lines straight" one of the South African judges' pet peeves. I could also add my borders using the paper as guidelines. (If you cannot comprehend how to do this you need a class from Cynthia England- one of the best teachers I took a class from till date.)

I decide this was the ideal opportunity to quilt on a double batting. The combination of cotton (for stability and drapability) and wool (for loft and texture) was just not affordable in South Africa to try on a full scale quilt. When I started  quilting I thought this was a mistake. The quilt was quite stiff- but this was only noticeable because it is so small. It quilt beautiful and I was quite glad that I did use this combination.

I decided to use a cream colour silk thread on the calico- my Bernina love to sew with it. It did sew beautiful but after a while the thread started braking. I replaced the needle but it still regularly broke. I quilted about 2 hours and decided to quit for the day. Everyday I remove the blue indication marks carefully with a wet cloth. I took care not to draw any lines on the red fabric and to only wet the calico- to prevent any bleeding of the red fabric. The next day I decided to use another thread- I could not handle any more thread braking.

When I was sewing the binding on I saw some loops of thread on the back. When I pulled on it the thread come out and all the quilting on the calico in the middle section came out!. My silk thread was solvable thread all the time.(I immediately stored it away with the other soluble thread.) One advantage was that I had the needle marks to see my quilting pattern and I could improve on it where necessary.

In spite of taking care that my straight seams stay straight, that was the one  negative comment I got from the judging panel. After close inspection I saw that one of my partial seams (A seam that radiate from the middle of the star) was not perfectly straight. I know I have struggled with that- one have less than a inch to partially seam- so to pick up that seam and get it sewn was a struggle- no wonder one of them was not perfect.

Every quilt share as a teaching tool for it's maker. It also share a time period in one's life. The quilt story and the quilters life story become entwined while working on the quilt. It is with fond memories that I will look at this quilt that was part of my life for a month.

To make a miniature quilt may take just a little bit shorter as making a full scale quilt. The accuracy needed for a quilt like this make for careful sewing, cutting trimming and pinning. It is only the length of the seams that make it quicker to complete.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Deliberate Practice

The advice often offered to quilters regarding free motion work is : Practice, practice, practice. Although good advise it will not necessarily help to improve your skills. What is essential is deliberate practise. It is necessary to evaluate your results and constantly and deliberately try to improve it. To learn more about the difference deliberate practice can make, read this guest blog post at Expert Enough by Lukas Kyska of The Aspiring Guitarist.

When I wanted to become a great canoeist 35 years ago I did not realize that it was not good enough to paddle up and down the lake for an hour every day. The day of the great event I was still last. I have never pushed myself to exhaustion. I was tired every night but all that practice did not give me an competitive edge.

The snowflakes were enhanced with a bit of sparkling paint. Still in complete.
At the International Quilt Convention this week end in Johannesburg (South Africa) I took a class with Susan Brubaker Knapp. We rarely have the opportunity to take classes from International teachers so I made use of this chance to learn from a master. The snowflake design we made in the class force one to carry out intricate small movements. It provided good practice in micro-stippling.

 I decided to use a small zig-zag stitch working this on the diagonal. It was quite tricky to find the right diagonal line but I was very happy with the way it contribute to the lacy effect we wanted to achieve.
Deliberate practice make the difference
To improve results one need to evaluate the results you achieve. Then you need to make a decision on the changes that is necessary to improve the results. In your practice session your aim must be to achieve those improved results. Constant re evaluation and adjustments is necessary to make your practice session worth while in improving your skills.

Susan is an excellent teacher and as always in any class I learned quite a few skills and got some really worth while tips. We had a marvelous and inspiring time at the quilt convention.

Please share your tips on deliberate practice.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Civil War block

When I work on a piecing project I like to start it and complete the top before moving on to a next project. A Block of the Month or Week project do not work so well for me except if I do it by hand. When I tackled the Civil war project of Barbara Brackman last year, I made the 28 blocks in two sessions.
Auditioning the blocks and sashing
I was looking for fabric for a new project and needed some that was used in this blocks. When I opened the box I realized I was not going to make the other 24 blocks. I had an interesting border print that I thought would unify these blocks. I combined 4 miniature blocks I made from these patterns to make another block and use another miniature block on point in a Square in a square setting.

The top is nearly completed. The border fabric was just not enough for the top row of sashing. I got hold of more fabric and will complete the top now.
Completed Bottom half

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It is to big!

I completed my handbag. I want to take it with me to the International Quilt Conference in Johannesburg. I am also taking my sewing machine and the Airline only allowed two pieces of hand luggage. This bag is just to big. If I put it in my suitcase it will just take up to much space.

Oh well it can hold about 3 quilts- so it is a nice bag to carry my Show and Tell quilts to meetings. I do not know what I was thinking- or perhaps I did not think? The pattern's name is The 6 Fat Quarter bag. It is a free pattern and available from Martingale. I use the two pieces of "Stupendous Stitching" to bring two of the fat quarters to the correct size.
I have added some charms on this piece.

I think I did not carry out the instructions for the handles correctly- but a big bag like this need wider handles. It is just not long enough- but I will remove the knot and just sew it together and decorate it with a button. The pattern can be found on Martingale's website- here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Making Plans or not?

I am most productive if I plan my days. I have read on some blogs that goal setting and detailed planning contribute to stress. So in the beginning of the year I thought I will just "go with the flow" and do what my hand find to do.

This might work for some people but it definitely did not work for me. I need to know what I want to achieve and do some planning around it on a daily basis. I decided to make myself a back pack long ago- last year some time. I have sewn some lovely Jacobean embroidery designs to use as pockets on the back pack and that was as far as it went.

We have an International Quilting Conference at the end of July. This was a good motivation for me to have the bag ready to take with me when I attend this Quilting Event. I used an old back pack that I find ideally as a template/pattern to make mine. I added a lining with a inner zip pocket and added a third outside pocket. The Back pack turned out very well and I am super happy with it. I am also very glad that I have another project finished.

I also want to make a handbag using an interesting pattern that I got from Interweave.
I have changed some of the panels to include some panels with stitching on. This I have learned from taking a class with Carol Ann Waugh at Craftsy

I have made this wall hanging after taken her class and is constantly looking for ways to apply this in my other work.

This bag will be a good opportunity to apply this knowledge and personalize my bag. What I like about this is that I can play with my embroidery floss, trying out the stitches I learned from Sharon Boggon in her Take a Stitch Tuesday series. I also use the knowledge obtained from my class with Margaret le Roux (last year) to incorporate the beads and charms I have added to my collection.

I do like to work in my studio concentrating on my projects. My embroidery machine is operating under my supervision working on another new project, while I completed the back pack and then start with the panels for the handbag. This sometimes create a conflict when the embroidery project needs decision making and cause a brake in concentration on the bag project. Then I just switch the embroidery machine off so as not to loose the Zen quality of my time in my studio.

Do you plan your days- or just go with the flow? What works for you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Redwork to digitize

It is thrilling to digitize a project and stitch it out. Redwork is very easy to digitize and a very good place for any one who want to learn digitizing, to start. I did a class with Hanlie Snyman of Bernina, Paarl and San Tyger. We recieved the 7 pictures and with Hanlie's clear instruction select our stitch (Backstitch), the colour (red) and our tool- mainly the Open Object tool. When all the lines were drawn the magic was created by the Blackwork Run tool.

I made some cloth  paper towels (saw it on a blog) with a nappy and some flannel squares I had. This was a good way to sew the designs out to see if adjustments was needed in the stitch length and number of strokes. Now I am ready to sew it on some dish cloths- to have some gifts ready for friends.

Vivian at the Rose Cottage has an Enhanced Line Drawing lesson as this June's challenge. You can purchase the lesson from her website without having to take part in the challenge.

Redwork and the ability to digitize it also helps you to digitize continuous quilting designs. When you use the double run tool the program work out the optimal route to complete the pattern without starts and stops. Very good classes, specifically for digitizing quilting designs is available at Quilt University from Joanne Winn. They will be available in September and October.

If you own an embroidery module and haven't used it yet- it might be the time to get going!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Power of Ten

I first read about the Power of Ten and the way to implement it in a Newsletter of Texas Quiltworks. It is also described on this blog. I do it a bit differently though.
Floral Kaleidoscope- DIC
I like to concentrate on a project for as long as possible or till my attention slip- or fear for in case I will not manage to pull it off, get the better of me.

For me a list of ten Delayed In Construction projects to work on simultaneously is to much. I do like to list all the projects I want to work on and it might be more than 10. Then I choose 3-4 where one might be a hand project, the other a quilting project and then a project that is still in the piecing stage. I might also add an embroidery project.

If one formalize the projects by listing them it serves as a reminder. One can also plan better and when you have a specific goal you are working towards you work more intentionally and do not while away time playing on the computer, checking email and blogs or just wasting time.

In the next couple of weeks I will discuss the projects that I have not featured up to now on my blog, one by one to show the progress I have made. I will also list it on my Quilts 2012 list and move it to the complete section as I manage to finish it.

What do you do to keep you motivated to work on old projects?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Doing my book...without it

As a regular reader of organizational blogs and student of several books on the topic- it might surprise you that I am still looking for things I have misplaced. I wanted to "do" the book of Karen Linduska. Your Machine's Decorative Stitches.

I could not find the book here at home in one of my several bookcases with quilting books. So I start with a small project working from memory. I have done a bit of crazy patchwork with my Bernina Artista 170 but I have forget about all the lovely stitches it had. So instead of working whimsical I use stitches that look like grass and small plants etc. It did not really showed up well but I had a lot of fun. I needle felted some wool roving to use as flowers and that was fun too.

When I finally got hold of my book I add some more whimsical stitches. I completed my project with wool couched to the edge with a zig-zag stitch. (I also know why some people put a loop in the corner- although I was careful the corners pulled to tight and it does not lie flat in the corners.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lost and Found

I thought my camera had disappeared. I could not find it anywhere and without it I could not blog. Luckily I retrieved it this week end- it was at Melkbos.

I am still working on some of the Zanki designs- to test the files I have converted to ART designs. Everytime that I work with these designs I just get new respect for the real artist Susan Wessels is.

Just look at the Degas Dancer. I try to select colours as closely to these she suggested. With every colour that I added the design came to life and start to resemble that of the original Artist more. I am sure Degas would applauded Susan.

Here it is- nearly completed

The completed dancer- a true work of Art.

You can find her designs on her website at

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Good Habits

I am an avid reader of Self-help books. I must say it did not really help or improve myself a lot. Even though I read the 7 Habits almost 20 years ago when it first came out and found it most inspiring, it did not bear fruits. Perhaps one become more yourself?

The biggest struggle in my life is to become more organized and create less cluttered  and stress free surroundings. Here I fail completely- I think mainly because I just have to much stuff and hoarding more and more. The UFO's I create, do nothing to reduce this and contribute to stress.

Lately I have been influenced by Leo Babauta and his blog Zen habits. He has changed his lifestyle with small daily habits. I needed to loose weight but know from past experience that it is almost impossible. I also have sleeping problems and are lacking energy. So I started quitting coffee and alcohol as well as refined sugar. Then I started walking daily- my husband join me in this and it has become a good daily habit. I eat healthy foods in very small portions. I have lost 6 kg over the last 2 months and has still a lot more to loose. I take it one day at a time, making sure I drink water whenever I think I am hungry.

When you use your fabric.
Since the beginning of the year I tried to get my studio cleaned up. This lead to very little quilting- not because this job kept me so busy but because I was resisting going into my studio. Over the last year a bad habit of spending to much time at the computer was created and I need to change this. I read a lot of blogs in my most productive times. I also just whiled away the time.

I have stacked my fabric in a different way- hoping to be able to get to more of my fabric (I just have to much of it- never thought I would admit or say it!)
Shelves to the left still need to be straightened.

This weekend I tackled my shelves. Although it might not look like a big improvement- I have removed things that was taking up space and do not belong or are used in this room. I have filled two big garbage bags. I have created space on my shelves for WIP so that my tabletops are nearly clean. I just need to move my ironing board and industrial machine and will then have a "new" room layout.

I spent the last 3 months dividing my time between the farm and Melkbosstrand where we have another building project. I am also busy with 3 internet courses and an applique project with Hanlie from our Paarl/Durbanville Bernina. I am teaching at Swartland guild and preparing for a workshop next month. This will also be the topic of a retreat that will run at Porterville hotel in June.

The current self help book that I read is: The Compound Effect. Here the practice of daily habits to get to your goal are also emphasized. Darren Hardy described how he decided to make a note everyday of things he appreciate in his wife. He presented her with this journal the next year at Thanksgiving. She was in tears- but the effect on him was that he fall in love with his wife all over again. This is quite inspiring. I have already started to note my husbands very good qualities. I will now make it a practice to communicate my appreciation of him everyday. (He does a lot of annoying things as well- but I will concentrate on the good things!)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Struggeling with quilting

I am quilting my third quilt on the frame and I am struggling. I was really wishing that I had a long arm teacher and did not have to figure everything out on my own. My Bernina do not like invisible monofilament thread when I quilt on the frame. So I was so glad when my order of Invisafil arrived. This is a lovely fine, fine thread and on my white quilt would have the invisible look I want for ditch quilting.

My thread indicator continuously show thread breakage and the machine stopped. There was none, so after several "unnecessary" stops I switched the indicator off. Then my thread started to brake as soon as I speed up a bit. Frustrated and feeling helpless I googled Invisafil and longarm quilting.  I read that a longarm quilter said she has to go super slow when using Invisafil and think she will charge clients more if they insist on her using it for their quilts.

I started to work more slowly, I switched the thread breakage indicator on and the machine stop before the thread brake. I then see that there is a spin on the thread as soon as I speed up. Using the thread stand on top of the machine did not eliminate the problem. Decreasing the tension even more (to 0.5) made it a bit better. This is really a lovely thread and it produce stunning results- it is nearly invisible without the tension problems that the monofilament create.

As soon as I started to do free motion patterns in the border no cure wanted to work. So I have decided  I will use this thread as a bobbin thread and on a low low tension for ditch work.

I am a follower of the blog: Expert Enough and this article relates so well to machine quilting. We so often hear that to become good at machine quilting there is just one thing and that is practise, practise, practise. Corbett Barr say in this article that without quality added to make it deliberate practise, all this practising will not bear real fruit.

When I teach machine quilting I try to be very encouraging just to get students going- fear of stitching can turn a machine quilting class into a non sewing class. Yet, I realise I should also teach students to really look at what they stitched, what the ideal look is and urge them to narrow that gab with deliberate practise.

Diane Gaudynski is the Free motion teacher of the month at Sewcalgal. I have learnt machine quilting with the help of Harriet Hargrave and Debra Wagner's books but it was with Diane's input (through her books) that I really strived to do better. In this article she emphasis working slowly and precisely. I am once again inspired to do deliberate practise on the frame (I was ready to quit yesterday). Video's of longarm quilters create the impression that it is so easy. I can tell you it is hard!

For me the difficult thing is to have the same control I was used to when I was free motion quilting. Now I must 'drive' the machine and to get straight lines and smooth curves where you want it, is not so easy. I do have the advantage that what I want to quilt is already part of my DNA so I only have to concentrate on moving the machine to carry these patterns out.

Are there any other mid arm or frame quilters that can encourage me? Have you become an Expert Enough and what was the secrets of your deliberate practise? Please share these with me.

Monday, January 9, 2012

All holidays come to an end

My holiday ended in a  weekend working in the dairy. I cannot complain- I have worked two months ago. The holiday was very enjoyable. We moved into a new house (for us) in Melkbosstrand. Only a street is between us and the beach. We can see the sea and beach from our bed on the second floor. My husband push the sliding door wide open at night so it feel like a beach slumber party!

After we bought the house a lot of work still needed to be done and the painting was only completed on 23 December. My parents and two sisters and their families (20 people) shared Christmast day in our new house. A good plan- every one brought a few dishes so no one worked to hard.
Look at the beauty in the middle-she had some matching sandals and earrings.(My daughter on the left.)

My children help me to create the miracle of getting the rooms cleaned the furniture moved into the rooms and the last painting touches on an old cupboard and bed. I made fitted sheets till late on Christmast eve but at 9 o clock we ate some braaivleis and admired the fact that order was created and we were ready to recieved the family.

I have created a sewing room and a sewing area in the lounge in this house. I mainly concentrated on handwork to spent time in the company of my family. My delectable Mountain quilt was worked in rows and except for the last row the top is completed. I worked an another block for my tweets- sitting at a desk in the big lounge where I could look at the sea.

This year I will follow the advice of Zenhabits and not make new year resolutions or plans. Instead I will try to form new habits that will help me to get my house and sewing room organized and kept in order. I have also decided to really try and threw all old clothes, linens and shoes out. I will try to remove clutter and keep it at bay on a daily basis.

I do have a few thinks for my quilting life planned though. I am taking part in  TAST 2012 of Sharon B and if I do not do the fly stitch tonight- I am a week behind! In February I will do an online class on studio journals also with Sharon. I have the wonderful Art journal book of Cathy Johnson and will also try and create an Artist Journal this year.

I plan to study and "do" my textile Art, collage and Mixed media books one by one. I started with Jane Davilla and Elin Waterton's Art Quilt Workbook.

I will blog about my progress on this undertakings. I will also participate in the Free motion Quilt Challenge hosted by Sew Calgal just for fun and the sew a long. I am sure that I will do a lot of free motion quilting on my "Art quilts" this year. To develop free hand embroidery abilities one first need to know and learn the formal stitches. This I will learn in TAST 2012 and apply in the Crazy Quilt challenge.

Please follow my undertakings and remind me if you see that I slack down! If you thought you arrived at the wrong blog- I am sorry. I thought a new year should have a change for the better. While reading blogs I found it is easiest for my eyes to read a blog written on a white background. I search and found this template in Blogger- hope it help you to read more easily.
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