Saturday, March 22, 2014

Squaring up circles

Three months into the year and I am struggling to get this blog going. Too many distractions in life and too many other priorities. Most of the time I opt to sew rather than write. That admission coming from someone who has managed couple of novels for nanowrimo should speak to the level of my obsession with quilting. I have even stopped reading! And I know many of those who know me will find that impossible to believe.
 My new finish though deserves to be written about. Not because it is good, though for someone who is a beginner like me, struggling to get points aligned or a neat finish, it is something to write about. No this deserves to be written about because of the way it happened and the people who had something to do with it.
We have a saying in Tamil that roughly translated means 'like a villager seeing a city'. That's how I gawk everytime I visit this gallery. Marianne Hak is one gifted quilter and I love the colour play in her quilts. Her Ripple Effect and Colour Shot made me visit her site frequently and for a while I even made one of them the background in my laptop. I loved the hand dyed fabrics that seemed to deepen in colour, the perfect rounds set in squares and sliced through with coloured spikes, the spiral quilting and the fact that one could never make out where a block began or ended. I had already decided I was going to make something at least remotely like those quilts and use her tutorials for spiral quilting and qayg when I did it.
So when Anna from DQ shared a tutorial for a simple way to Drunkard's Path my interest perked. Well it actually perked when I saw Vidya use the tutorial and make a beautiful circle set in a square.Voila. i had a way to do circles set in squares. Things happen providentially and I received a package of freezer paper from yet another friend. Told you at the beginning that there were so many people involved in this quilt in their own little way! So I took out the batik that I had been hoarding and gloating over since the time I got it from Tina at the Square Inch (formerly Quilts of Love).
Making these circles was really simple and soon I had a pile of them.

When I got bored with making the same kind of circles I went smaller and smaller.


I played around with their settings, chopped up some of the circles and recreated more colourful ones until I had enough to satisfy the colour craving in me. I had figured out that the inserts would have to be an inch in width when I sliced the circles. So I sliced and joined and also made sure that when I had a block that was a touch small, my inserts took care of it.


 And then I was off spiral quilting following this tutorial from Marianne's The Quilting Edge. I had already decided to use her tutorial for QAYG as well so all my blocks were pinned and proper, ready for the spiral show. The tutorial explains all the steps to be followed for spiral quilting but of course if there is way to screw up one always finds it. Three squares spirally quilted  and I saw with dismay that my squares were all going askew. All three layers were being pulled away form each other and I knew that after squaring my 12.5 " squares would end up a miserable 9" or less.
I sent out an SOS to the desi quilters group and soon had one of the experts Vani solving my problem. She educated me about lowering the pressure - not the tension, and in the process I learnt something new about my still-new machine. Some ripping and I was spiralling again - not out of control though.
 I added a few blocks with cheater fabric to avoid an sensory overload by the circles and spirals but still ended with a busy layout. this quilt was challenging me on all levels and it seemed like I had more frontiers to conquer. I have to admit the thought of quilting more blocks was not something that had me jumping in enthusiasm but I did not want to compromise. I took advice from all quarters but settled on couple of solids and one striped fabric to bring the quilt together. It changed the look of the quilt, maybe toned it down a touch with the straight line quilting. The back too was affected as I had used up all the fabric with my initial blocks. Luckily I had the same kind of fabric in a pleasant green and it added a special touch to the back even making some prefer it to the front.
The quilting showed up beautifully on the back and I am glad I took enough pains to do it neatly. Truthfully it is difficult to go wrong if you follow the tutorial properly! And so a special quilt was born and it is going to a special person too.She deserves it as she has been the one who has been nudging me into quilting since the last ten twelve years with books and tools.
Sharing this on Show off Saturday at sewcanshe.com.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Eco Print

The water is on the boil and the steam rising up carries a lovely fragrance that permeates the house. No you are wrong. This is not a recipe blog or anything from the kitchen. Well it is from the kitchen but still about quilts. Or the fabric thereof. I am cooking up some fabric. Don’t smile! I can sense the uneasiness behind your smile. I am not ready to be carted off to the loony house. I am just ‘eco dyeing’ some fabric that is wrapped around a bundle of leaves and twigs. We went to the nursery to pick up some plants – a belated birthday gift for dh and I decided to grab some eucalyptus leaves from the trees that line that road. And that’s what is boiling and smells heavenly.

It all started when I decided to make this cushion cover for the challenge in the DQ group. 
I did not have the right colours for the water and decided to paint. Having read a bit about sun dried painting I decided to give it a go. And loved the way it turned out. That made me read more and I learnt about natural dyeing – with flowers and leaves. With a garden at my disposal I decided to go for flower dyeing. The pinky-violet indescribable dahlia and brilliant red African Tulip  were automatic choices. Look at them. 


Do you blame me? After the process the fabric wrapped around the dahlias looked so rich and lovely. The African tulips was however disappointing. But a couple of rinses and the colours washed away leaving me with fabric that looked soiled. More like dh's T-shirts after a bout of gardening. 
Well there was still leaves to try and that is what's cooking today. I am going to let the fabric steep in that liquid for a few days so we are not going to know the result of that experiment until the next blog. And today I learnt about adding salt with paint and scrunchy fabrics and using sea-sponge as an applicator. At this rate all the plain fabrics in my closet are going to end up as guinea pigs.
So what else is happening you ask. Got my new machine and yet to get to know its full working abilities.
 Dh tells everyone that 'you talk and it stitches'. Not quite but it does have some lovely features. I am holding myself back and finishing a quilt - back to one quilt a month target. But am in love with this feature -  thread trimmer set in the foot pedal. I did wonder if these features were just a waste of technology and money. I mean all one needs is a pair of scissors to snip the thread. But using it was an eye-opener. the machine leaves just enough thread to start stitching again. No more issues with the needle becoming unthreaded because the thread was short or having a long tail every time you start. All you need is to sew, back-pedal, trim and move and start stitching. I love it everytime I use it and since this quilt is scrappy and strippy I am using it a lot. And finally last month's projects are all here

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Twiddling thumbs

Sometimes life takes over and before you know it is months since you wrote anything. The past nine months has been so hectic. Every month has seen a quilt finished!No UFOs! Now that is an achievement. Of course there are UFO's from other crafts stuffed into the closet. Crochet yarn tumbling out every time I open my cupboard, cross-stitch patterns waiting their turn patiently but not a single unfinished quilt project. That is really something to talk cheer about. And many of these quilts have found homes with friends who are there right behind encouraging and buying! As they say there can be no star without the audience and no creator without someone to appreciate.
October has been a lean month. My sewing machine has gone for a long needed service and I am twiddling my thumbs. No quilt in the making. Not that I am idle. There is the baby blanket being crocheted for 'The Hundred Hands' project. And a cross-stitch UFO that I am determined to finish this month. And the monthly challenge for the Desi quilter's group. Flower power. Without the machine it may not get done but the challenge gives me reason to start something that is long overdue!
The challenge. Which brings me to the not so new group that I am a member of - Desi quilters. A bunch of Indian origin quilters who live all over the world  and a bunch of quilters who live in India. The only two qualifiacations are a desi connection and a quilting connection even if it is just tenuous. Led by admins who keep everyone crafting, challenging their limits, the group dynamics keeps one addicted, leaving little time for crafting. Now that is ironical but still true. I am looking for detox so if anyone knows of a good place......
Two days to finish the month and a lot to show for it inspite of the lack of machine. I'll share all the unfinished and the finished in the next post as the challenge is supposed to be through anonymous entries.
Oh and I am shifting all my photos to Flickr. The new google+ has played havoc with my albums and I am not going there until some sanity returns. Let me know if there are any glitches in my Flickr album. And you can find all my finished quilts either on flickr or on Quiltbug on FB.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wanted - A new machine

A quilt a month with all that free-motion quilting seems to have sent my Juki into a tizzy. It started suffering from burn-out syndrome. I mean that really. One could smell that strong smell of something burning. So off it went for a well-needed servicing. Been a month and some days and I am still twiddling my thumbs waiting for the return of my beloved machine. The talk is that the motor has become weak and may need a transplant! And we all know transplants are expensive. Like heart surgery the original was inexpensive while the replacement is going to cost the earth. I need a new machine.
And one that will let me quilt to my heart's content. I would like to have some extras - fonts to add my initials to my quilts or put a child's name onto its' wearable instead of my scrawl. And so my heart beat a little faster when I saw Amy's offer on Amy's creative for a Baby Lock Melody sewing machine. Gosh that would be something! Time for my luck to change and win something. I hope the gods are smiling down at me. Let me win that beauty!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Barbie paints the town red

If you grew up without a doll to play with and you suddenly get a chance to play with one what would you do? Well i did what I guess most would. - jump at the chance to dress the doll in different dresses. Of course I had the pleasure of designing and stitching them too.When I found my five year old niece had a 'thing' for Barbie. giving her a wardrobe to play with seemed the best gift. Sewing those tiny stitches was a challenge as my right index finger finds it difficult to wield a needle after a accident.
I searched for scraps of silk and lace in my stash and came up with a collection of dresses that would gladden a little girl's heart. And was she glad!

         The wedding dress was the biggest success needless to say!
  Well so was the pink as it was her favourite colur!


   The gold net transformed this into a ball dress!
      The gagra-choli made Barbie as Indian as she could be.


 My crochet needle did its bit too and these three dresses were the result.

 More dresses with lace trim and accessories to add glamour.

 And simple ordinary dresses for those ordinary days..
I enjoyed making these up for my niece and she has a grand time dressing up her little dolls. Do you have a little one who would like a wardrobe for her Barbie? You could order some then. Similar ones not identical ones as each dress would be unique in its fabric and the little trims that go to make it special. Your girl will always have a unique and special wardrobe for her girl(s).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Snug as a bug in a rug


An affinity for bugs is not something to boast about but if it is a fact then you cant but state it. Be it inside or out in the garden, the creepy-crawlies find their way down my back or up my jeans making me leap like a startled fawn as Wodehouse would put it. But this post is about another kind of bug that is making the rounds in my house and I am having an attack of the bug right now! Yeah after crochet bug came the cross-stitch bug and now it is the quilt bug. Tired of blankets that fell short – they would either cover the feet or the face but never both – I decided to customise one for dh and thus was born this pieced quilt. 


The patch-work almost made me give up on it – my hands started locking up cutting all the pieces and I put it away for a year before bringing myself to piece it all together. Then came the quilting. I was too nervous to machine-quilt it and so I hand-quilted sitting for hours with the quilt spread on my bed . It was worth the effort and like Linus and his blanket it has become inseparable from its owner. I put it away only when the heat of the summer sun makes it impossible to use.
                                    A close-up of the patch-work and the quilting
The experience of making my first quilt gave me the courage to make one for Sid who needed it for the winters of Boston.  This was a themed quilt, reflecting the atmosphere of a farm with a morning and a night side. This time I spent hours painting the quilt, thankfully there was no piecing involved. It was a unique, one of a kind quilt and found favour with its youthful owner.

                                                A day in the farm

                                                                                        Night on the farm
 Now truly bitten by the bug I did this sampler quilt from an online class at Craftsy.com and the more I saw what people were coming up with the more I wanted to make quilts. 


That one took a year as the class spanned all of 2012 but I finished this last month for the newest member of the family. It features the traditional Greek Cross and looks bright and colourful – just right for a child.

                                                                         The front

                                                                                               And the back
And the awesome news is the quilt top I am working on now is being bought by someone. I decided a while ago that it was time to peddle my wares and have got my first custom order. A happy ending or rather beginning to my bug story.

                                               Just Squares
So now you know where to go or rather come when you want your child to be as snug as a bug in a rug. With air conditioning the rule rather than an exception, your child is going to need a quilt to keep warm. And you can get them custom made!
I will post pictures of the other kids' stuff that I craft in between my quilts in my next post