Wednesday, December 29, 2010

January Log Cabin - 3. Cutting and Giveaway!

The next job is cutting the 1.5" strips.  The key here is to cut accurately.  Ironing is a must!!  Use a hot iron with steam and your life will be much easier.
A ruler and rotary cutter makes a big difference with strips, but you can definitely do it with scissors and a pencil.
There are very few straight edges on scraps, but if you have a selvedge, or its been cut well at the shop, you can be on a winner.
Use your straight edge as a guide, and cut from there.
Try to cut with the grain.  Being slightly off grain is not a big deal as with patchwork its all locked into place.  But you must never cut on the bias unless you are told to!!!  This will completely stuff your whole block up.

If you have a geometric print (like stripes)you need to cut with the pattern rather than the grain of the fabric.

So now cut strips.  You need 1.5" strips.  Not too many of them, only about 2m in total length of each colour.

Here is my scrappy block all laid out with the strips.  Doesn't it already look nicer?

And here is my coordinating block laid out the same way.
Pretty right?  The different length of strips is due to the way I cut it off the piece of fabric.  Some came from scraps, some from fat quarters, some leftovers, and some from 20cm full pieces.

Ok - now you need to follow the cutting instructions on the tutorial found here
Essentially you need one 2.5" square for the hearth, then Fabric A has 2.5" up to 11"5" strips, and Fabric B has 3.5" up to 12.5" strips.

When its all cut out it will look like this.

And then you can rearrange to make it look all organised like this....

And if you are feeling game, you can now lay your blocks out - overlapping each piece slightly so you see what the finished product will look like!
Scrap block:

 Coordinated block:

And because I had too much time on my hands today, I decided to do an extra 3 blocks with the leftovers.  These will be giveaways!  If you would like me to send you an already cut out set, please leave a comment below, maybe telling me why you are keen to give this a whirl, and I will draw on New Years Day.  You will save the time of cutting for now, and can concentrate on sewing perfectly.....  Or maybe you can work on finding a 1/4" quilters foot for your machine?

Next post:
Sewing, and the magic 1/4" seam allowance.

January Log Cabin - 2. Fabric choice (Coordinating)

So you can't handle the idea of a scrap quilt.  Thats really OK.  Honest it is!!
What you need to do is pick out a central theme.  Walk into a fabric shop and find something you like.  Find something cheap that you like.  Find an old cotton dress you want to use and base it all around that!

Whatever you do - find a theme fabric and get at least 1m of it.

A couple of years ago (actually more like 4-5 years now....) I found this fabric at Spotters on sale.  It was only $8/m and I really liked it, so I bought about 5m of it.  I bought that much so I could use it for borders for a quilt.  Borders chew up the fabric, so when you find something you like for a good price, allow 3-4m for borders.

From the central fabric you want to look through your stash first, and find what you have that works with it.  Then go to a shop and buy 20cm pieces or some fat quarters that also match.  This photo shows you some of what I have in my stash I could use with this fabric.
Sometimes with fabrics there are the matching prints that go in the series.  Its a good idea to buy these, but if you make your whole quilt from them, someone else out there is likely going to have the same quilt as you!  So its good to be brave and splash out a little.

When you have decided on your central fabric, and the block you wish to make, its time to select the fabrics for that block.  Edit essentially.  You need to think about what sort of balance you are going for, and how you will fit it in with the rest of your quilt.  I decided for this block to go green and background prints, with a yellow hearth.
So I whittled down to get this selection.
The red is not going to feature in this block at all.  I could have used it for the hearth I suppose, but I'm still leaving it while selecting my fabric to ensure that it all works.  I need 5 darks and 5 lights for the arrangement I'm using.
I like it, but I know already that it is going to be hard to get into the quilt as it will be quite contrasty, quite light, with no red.  Ah well........

January Log Cabin - 1. Fabric choice (Scrap)

For January we are going to work on a Log Cabin 12" block.  The strips will all be precut which means you are going to know straight away if your 1/4" seam allowance is off. 
Rather than posting the whole instructions, we are going to work off this tutorial:

Its well layed out with all the instructions, so those that are able to can zoom ahead.

First job - select your fabrics.  I've raided my fabric stash and decided to do a scrap block in blues and light backgrounds.  So I've picked everything out in the palette, ironed them, and cast a discerning eye over them.

You can see there are a range of blues here.  Not all the same colour, but the only one that stands out to me as being "wrong" is the light blue, 3rd from the left.  I'm concerned that if I put that one in the mix, it will detract from the blue side of the cabin.  The other ones are OK, but I will have to be careful cutting the pieces as with large prints you can interrupt the effect by putting in a huge chunk of green island!

After rejigging, this is my fabric line up - ironed and ready to cut.  There is a strong contrast between both sides without anything standing out too much.

Now if I was going to do this quilt as a properly coordinated print, I would choose a central theme or fabric.  If you look at my Northern Stars Quilt you can see that there is a theme through the blocks.  Its hard to tell until you put the border on in this case, but the central fabric is a large blue/green/cream rose floral.  Everything in the quilt is chosen around that.

So if you wanted to coordinate this, find a fabric that you like, and choose maybe 10-12 coordinating fabrics.
Next post: Fabric Choice (coordinated)

Patchwork Essentials

Over on TNN (The Nappy Network) we are doing a monthly craft focus.
There was a small but reasonable amount of interest in a Patchwork project, and given I have a bit of exposure to the said craft, I have decided to help things along.

Patchwork has been a part of my whole life.  My mother is a prominent quilter and has impeccable taste in the said craft.  I don't have much contact with her anymore, but I figure I have picked up a few tips along the way.

Firstly - lets talk about patchwork essentials.  Your hardware.  Keep in mind these are tools that make life easier and more accurate, but you can do patchwork with a needle and thread and a pair of scissors!  Think Amish - they don't have electricity right?

But I like to have things a little more comfortable, and so these are my must haves.

1.  Pins.  You must pin the pieces together.  Accuracy is critical, and if you don't pin your pieces together, you will never get points to match!  I have a pincushion that site beside my machine.  I admit to leaving pins in while I'm sewing, and hoping that my machine won't hit them.  Its only happened once, and that broke the needle and stuffed up my timing.  Expensive!!  If you don't want to chance it, leave the pin in until your needle reaches it, then pull it out before sewing.  That way the pressure from the foot holds the piece in place.
2. Quick Unpick.  You will make mistakes.  Its totally normal.  The good patchworker undoes their mistakes and resews, rather than regretting the inaccuracy down the track.  I have this one - the one that came with my Bernina - handy beside my machine.
3. A patchwork foot.  This foot allows you to get an accurate 1/4" seam allowance.  Most, if not all patchwork patterns come from USA which works on the imperial system (not metric)  So all the designs and templates are specified with a quarter inch seam allowance.  If you don't work within this limit, your final product will be so far out, it can be unusable.
4. A cutting mat, rotary cutter and ruler.  Rotary cutting is so much more accurate and time saving than scissors and tracing around templates.  You can start with small everything, and as you get more confident scale up on ruler, mat and cutter.  I do find that a larger blade is nicer for cutting strips, but the smaller blade is nicer for around tricky templates.
5.  Sharp needles.  Little pieces of fabric, blunt needles, jamming threads.  Nuff said.

Thats about it - the essentials of patchwork.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Final sum up of 12 Days....

OK - so the best laid plans and all that.......

I meant to post daily with the swap I sent and the swap I received.  But my camera is on the fritz, and life has gotten in the way, and well, here we are at Day 12, and I have a couple of photos to share.

Odette sent me all these goodies.  Just a gorgeous swap - thanks ever so much.  (Stitch markers are missing as they are already in my SM pouch and I can't find them at the moment...)  I've loved the deccies, the gardening stuff is lovely, and the book is really good!  I've not seen the series or read any of the books, and I'm really enjoying it!  I actually would love to be reading now rather than cooking the Christmas lunch, but the big guy is in bed sleeping, so thems the breaks.

This is the final swap that Hannah should have amassed.  Its so strange when you participate in swaps to look at the final product.  I put alot of time into Hannah's swap at a pretty tricky old time.  To me it looks bitzy, but I know each thing in there was thought about and considered.  There are 6 handmade things, a few bought things, and a few things that were jokey.

So another Christmas Day is over as far as the kids are concerned.   I am more excited about about the roast chicken in the oven, and the pav and brandy snaps awaiting us!  I did get a pretty special present (apart from the much needed Clarins products and some new knit picks and addi's needles).  I told Shane he owed me diamond earrings after the grief he has put me through.
I helped out by using an old 1/4 carat diamond pendant of mine as one of the earrings, and traded in all my unwanted or broken 9ct gold jewellery, so I now have a lovely pair of sparklies at a much cheaper price than buying new.  The camera is really on the fritz (hopefully a second hand Nikon SLR D200 coming to me in the new year!!!)  so here is a fritzy shot to show the size.  Perfect I would say :) 

I hope all your Christmasses are lovely too.  I just have to go and deal with the nearly 6yo who has her first digital camera, and the 4yo who has a noisy digger truck that is driving us all mad!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

12 Days of Christmas - Day 3 and 4

Oops - its a double post today.  Yesterday was just one of those days.  I forgot appointments and just ran around like a chook all day.

The mugginess has lifted slightly, but now we have that damp feeling that comes with the rain on a warm day.  Still - the gardens are watered by nature, which is great since sprinkler bans kicked in Waipa last night.  Hand held watering still find, but no more sprinklers.  Still - if its hot, not much is going to stop me putting the sprinkler on for the kids to play in!

So - Day 3 received from Odette was a wonderful partner for Mr Claus.  She's pretty happy on the tree near her mate, but I have noticed all the decorations keep changing spots.  At least the decs aren't falling on the ground - not like all the needles.  Hmmmm.
Day 4 from Odette were these great little stitch markers. 

I never have enough stitch markers.  With all the seamless knits I do, I find that lots and lots of these things is an absolute must.

Day 3 sent was this tin.

It was filled with Days 4,5,6 and luckily Hannah has already said what she opened for Day 4, because I had forgotten to write them down before sealing them into Day 3!
Day 4 was a small, densely knitted cloth.  2 ends, and really thick.  Will probably be a great little kitchen scrubber.

Jenna is really beginning to get into this swap.  This morning she quietly came to ask me if she could open day 4.  I allowed her to, since she showed such restraint!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Days of Christmas - Day 2

Today is Wednesday.  It was a hard day....  Schools are finishing up.  I had to go to my workplace to empty out my desk for my maternity leave replacement, and there was a concert, a Pippins party and of course nibbles to prepare.

So - hard day for me, I'm tired, its hot, I'm over it.

It's nice therefore to have a wee pick-me-up!
Today I received this lovely little santa decoration from Odette in my Day 2 parcel.  I'm not sure if she made it, but its incredibly well finished, so if she did she's a smartie!!!

Hannah would have opened her day 2 parcel to find this:  Something for the kiddlies :)

In addition to the swap festivities, I got the teacher's gifts together this evening too (x 6 - 4 kindy teachers and 2 school teachers)  6 nice teatowels each filled with about 1kg of freshly dug new potatoes from our vege garden. 

Seems a weird present to give, but with all the wonderful things teachers receive at this time of year - especially new entrants teachers - I like giving a practical easy present that people don't feel bad about receiving or cooking and using!!

On with tomorrow - phew!  This heat is killing me so with the promise of rain tomorrow, I'm already loving the idea of a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12 Days of Christmas - Day 1

Odette sent me my lovely parcels, wrapped carefully and they look quite exciting!
Today is day one of the swap.

 I'm pleased to reveal what I  sent over to Hannah

Christmas toilet paper.  A must have!

And the lovely gift received, chocolate fig and ginger fruit mince.  Yum!!!!  Not sure what I'm going to use this for, but I do have some shortcrust pastry in the freezer, so maybe I'll get that out and make some tarts!  Yum.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mental as anything

I have this weird habit.
I hand knit blanks and then dye them into gradients.

This is 2 ends of yarnundyed dk merino knitted, and dyed into a rainbow gradient.

The red is a bit pink, but other than that I am reasonably happy with it.
We will see what this next baby is, and if its not a girl, I will sell this gradient on as I think its a bit feminine for a wee boy.

I have another gradient all ready to dye up - I'll probably attack that tomorrow if the inclination takes me that way.

See - I can do a happy post!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trying not to do a depressing post....

Due to the last 6-7 weeks, much of what I have written here has been tainted with misfortune.  And I don't mean it to be, truly!  BUt I guess when the focus of your world becomes someone else's health, well you can't really help it.
The day after Shane was diagnosed with the Tumour, I had to make phone calls to ask for help.  As we were in the middle of reno's and the lino had been laid on the Friday, I was really stuck as I had no oven, washing machine, shower, bath, vanity, fridge, laundry tub in place.  Luckily we had the toilet, the kitchen sink and the dishwasher.
And the next problem I faced is that Shane is exactly the sort of person I needed to call!  Handy, capable and able to tackle most jobs.  Luckily we have a friend who is a plumber, and he came over on the Sunday to do all sorts of things for us, while his wife watched the kids.  Another friend came over on the Saturday and put back the fridge and washing machine.  But the oven was still tricky.  Shane had unwired it, and I really couldn't trust his wiring, so I knew I had to get a sparky in.

The person I called was Paul McLeod - the head of technology at Cambridge High School.  I did a practicum at CHS when I did my teacher training 2 years ago, and really enjoyed being in the tech department.  Such a lovely group of men, and had I not got the job where I did, I would have worked as a relief teacher at CHS until I was able to be squeezed in somewhere.  Such a lovely team.  After my prac finished, I saw an advertisement for a workshop technician for 2 hrs per week, and Shane approached them for the job.  He's been there since, and has really enjoyed his 2 hours in the man cave each week - fixing lathes and sharpening chisels, and he is able to use the facilities whenever he needs to out of hours for small welding jobs etc.  They love him too as it frees up the teachers time as they can leave the repair jobs for him in the weekend.

Paul was a great help when I called.  He gave me numbers to call, and over the next few weeks called a few times to check on progress.  He was understanding when Shane couldn't get in there, and even more understanding when Shane and I started doing his 2 hrs a week together over the last few weeks as I can't trust him to be in a workshop alone with his seizures and the like.

Sadly Paul took his own life on Sunday after what sounds like a long battle with depression.  He is survived by his wife of 42 years and his 3 daughters.  Today was the funeral, and I was holding it together pretty well until the daughters took the stage and the grief poured through them.

I'll miss him.  He was a bloody good colleague, a mentor, and an all round funny nice bloke.  I don't understand why it happened, why he all of a sudden didn't feel like he could reach out and ask for help.  I mean - I asked him for help 6-7 weeks ago, and he delivered.  Didn't he realise there were people who would do the same for him?

So - trying not to be a depressing post, but there it is.

On the lighter side of things, I have done some dyeing today, and I am getting my giveaway together!  Hopefully it will be ready in a week or so in time for Christmas!