Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Modern Mini Quilt Preview

This week's Free Motion Quilting Project exercise was to practice on a real quilt. This was the the kick in the pants that I needed to start quilting my project for the Modern Mini Quilt Challenge. My wonderful partner also provided some JD on the rocks to help with the creative flow.

I'm not ready to reveal the whole design just yet, but here is a preview showing some of my quilting from this week:

Update: Full quilt is posted HERE!

I stippled all over the white areas surrounding the main design. I played with the idea of quilting the rainbow bits the same way, and even drew up samples on the computer to see what they would look like, but in the end I couldn't bring myself to do anything that would interfere with the lines and symmetry of the diamonds.

Even though I wasn't going over any thick seam areas in free motion, I did find it harder to quilt this than the samples I've practised on so far. The bulk and weight of the quilt constantly needed to be moved around, which added one more dimension to focus on, so this definitely isn't the best stippling I've done. The scale is a little bit uneven, and in many places I came too close to a previous line, but overall I'm really happy with it. I plan to order a Supreme Slider to make things move more easily. The one thing that's bothering me at the moment is that my basting pins left some tiny ugly dints in the fabric.

My question for Leah this week is about wetting an unfinished quilt. I have this irrational fear of getting it wet, but you mentioned that you soak yours. Could you provide a little bit more information about when and why to do that? Will it help the basting pin holes close up?

Here is the whole quilt from the back. Not a single knot or eyelash to be seen!  

Monday, 27 February 2012

Colour of the Month Block: Purple

This is my second block for the Colour My World Challenge series over at Quilt Matters. This month I created a purple block using a new (to me) improv piecing technique. It turned out slightly smaller than last month's red block, but that fits the mismatched rainbow look I'm aiming for in the final quilt.

I will also admit that I haven't been using all quilting weight cotton fabrics for these blocks (oh, the horror)! There's a cardinal rule of quilting that's being broken here, but the whole point of this project is to be as experimental as possible. There's no better way to find out what will happen than to try. Everything has been pre-shrunk and I'm sure once it's assembled and quilted tightly it will work just fine. I've used some upholstery fabric, polyester and cotton-poly blends. For the purple block, I'm also using the reverse side of the fabric to make the effect more interesting.

I started with a basic stripe block. The bottom fabric is the back side of the top one.

I made some vertical cuts and added thin strips of a different purple.

Then I cut it up again and reattached the middle strip upside down.

It was already starting to look pretty wonky cool, and my instinct at this point was to leave it alone. But was that really adventurous enough for me? Nah. I cut off a corner and replaced it with some leftover strip pieces, and then cut the whole thing horizontally to add more stripes of the background purple. While I was at it, I turned the top part upside down.

At this point there were starting to be too many seams to cut again, and I was really liking the look of it so I attached a border to finish it up. And voilĂ , a finished purple block! I'm not sure if I love it as much as the red block, but they certainly will go well together.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Another Year, Another Number

A few weeks ago, I turned 30, and it was my first birthday away from home. I don't know enough people here yet to have a party, but I thought I would give you all a rundown of the festivities so that you can share it with me!

My parents had a vase of pretty flowers delivered to the house in the morning. Here they are with a pitcher of sangria (raspberries and blood oranges, mmm) and some of those sour cherry candies that I would normally never ever buy because they're full of disgusting things. Sam made me lamb rogan josh stew for dinner and baked a batch of naan from scratch. It was a lovely and delicious day.

For our dinner out on that weekend, I picked DaDeO New Orleans Diner and Bar. It has a 60s diner look (our table even had a jukebox) and serves a big selection of jambalayas. I actually remember it, which is a big step up from the birthdays in my 20s.

To celebrate the big day, I gave myself permission to splurge on a few things, in addition to those toxic sour cherry candies above. First off, a shiny new ironing board pad & cover for my sewing room from Compelled to Craft on Etsy. 

BEFORE: dirty, blue, depressing

AFTER: happy yellow birdies

And lastly, some fabrics from Earthly Goods that I'd had my eye on for a while. It won't be long until I can show you what I'm making with those little rainbow packs. Can't wait!

All in all, it was a good time. Still waiting for that wisdom that supposedly comes with age to kick in. Maybe on the next big birthday.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Quilting Around Stuff for the Humane Society

This is the latest in the series of blankets I've put together while quilting along with Leah Day at the Free Motion Quilting Project. I am using these blankets to learn free motion quilting, and they will be donated to abandoned cats at the humane society through the Snuggles Project at the end of the year.

I went with a daisy theme this time around. Here are the flannels I chose for this blanket:

This week's exercise was to quilt the entire surface in one go, while going around shapes. I started by stitching two rows of flowers, giving myself something to go around, then I filled in the rest with stippling.

Leah provided diagrams of the path to follow to avoid getting stuck in a corner. I totally failed at following the instructions. Oops. It was hard to know which direction I was going while everything was moving so fast. I had to stop twice and start somewhere new to get the whole blanket done. I'll have to practice this one some more.

Here is the final blanket:

Friday, 10 February 2012

Free Motion Quilting Challenge - Month 2

This month's Free Motion Quilting Challenge is to draw an Echo Feather Plume. Considering that I learned to stipple just last month, this design was really intimidating when I first saw it. Luckily Diane Gaudynski provided detailed instructions and included a lot of pictures.

When the instructions became available, I spent hours trying to draw the feather design in my notebook. It didn't work on the first day. For some reason I just wasn't able to replicate Diane's tear drop shape. I even tried cutting out the template from her pictures and tracing around it, with little success.

After drawing the design over and over on paper, however, my feathers started looking a little bit better. These are some of the feathers I was able to draw after a week of practice:

I thought these were starting to look pretty good, so I moved on to quilting the design freehand on fabric. This was my first attempt:

I'm pretty sure this is exactly what Diane was referring to when she warned us to avoid drawing anything that looked like strange broccoli stalks and deformed veggies... For the second attempt I switched to a colour of thread that wouldn't stand out and showcase my mistakes quite so much:

These turned out really well! With the pale thread, you can't make out many mistakes, and after a wash I think these would probably look perfectly ok on a quilt. Encouraged by this, I gave it another try with contrasting thread:

My feathers are certainly not perfect, but I'm proud of how far I've come after only a month of free motion quilting. I plan to come back to this design as my skills improve, and hopefully turn it into something beautiful to use on a quilt.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Great News Over at GenQ

I'm excited to announce that the lovely people at Generation Q Magazine have posted the winners of their Needlebook Challenge.

My wonky little fire hydrant got first place! You should head over there and check out the other great winners as well. Congrats to everyone!

I've been using my needlebook every day since I made it. It's not just good for holding needles - all of the small felt pieces I don't want to lose adhere really nicely to the inside too. You can look forward to seeing more craft projects from Everyday Handmade once my book arrives.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Quilting in a Line for the Humane Society

Over the last two weeks, Leah Day at the Free Motion Quilting Project has focused on quilting in straight lines around blocks, following drawn lines, and filling in the space inside them. For these exercises, I needed fabrics with lots of lines to follow and some patterns to outline, so I chose the following flannels for my latest Snuggles Project kitty blanket:

Also, not pictured, is a tiny square of farm animal fabric that
I'd been saving and decided to throw in at the last second.
I cut squares of the striped fabric and pieced them together in opposite directions so that I could practice following lines at every angle. I honestly thought this was going to be a disaster. I can barely follow a straight line with a regular sewing machine foot, how the heck was I going to be able to do it in free motion? But now that I've tried it, I realize how simple it actually is, and how much sense it makes to do it this way. Here's the very first block I quilted. Its lines of stitching are surprisingly straight!

Once I'd stitched around all my squares and over the stripe blocks, I tackled the next step, which was to outline some patterns on my fabric and then fill the space around them with quilting.

You can't see it very well, but I did trace around the hippo and donkey. My stitch length is uneven in these places because I was going very slow, but I did stay on the lines so I consider that a success.

I found it surprisingly difficult to stipple around the donkey once I had outlined him. The amount of room you've got is limited, so you've got to plan out your stitching a little bit ahead of time to avoid getting stuck in a corner. I found that this resulted in a more repetitive pattern that didn't flow very well. I'm sure that will resolve itself as I continue to practice.

There's been a lot of talk about thread colour this week, and I realize that I've been using this beige thread for everything so far. Sure it's boring, but it blends in so nicely to hide mistakes. Now that I've got the basics down and more confidence, I will start experimenting with colour a bit more.

Here is the finished blanket from this exercise:

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Opinions from the Kitchen: Shawarma Made at Home

One of the things I miss most about Ottawa are the shawarmas. I've been addicted to these awesome garlicky Lebanese sandwiches since high school, but it seems Edmonton hasn't really discovered them yet. To ease the withdrawal pains, I've been forced to take matters into my own hands and make shawarmas at home.

I've been using this falafel recipe from Epicurious as the base for my home made wraps. They are better than any restaurant bought falafel I've ever had. I omit the cilantro and replace half of the flour with bulgur wheat, then everything goes into the food processor. (Warning: don't even think of omitting the flour completely, it's the gluten from the flour that allows you to shape the mixture into balls. Without it they'll fall apart before you can even get them into the pan.) I'm told that you can bake these, but I haven't had much luck with that. I just fry them in some vegetable oil until they turn brown all over. This is the most time consuming part of the recipe but it's worth it. See how crispy and delicious they look?

To make your shawarma sandwiches, you will also need fresh pita bread, lettuce, sliced onions, dill pickles and pickled turnip. I haven't been able to find pickled turnip, so I am doing without for now. You can also add hot peppers for some spice. And the most important part of the shawarma experience: garlic sauce. I've experimented with many garlic sauce recipes over the years, and have come up with my own that is deliciously authentic without being ridiculously unhealthy.

Garlic shawarma sauce
     - 1 1/2 cups of thick Greek yoghurt
     - juice from 1/2 lemon
     - 5 cloves of garlic, grated as small as possible
     - 1 tbsp of tahini (optional, if you feel like it)
Mix and refrigerate overnight to allow the garlic flavour to really develop.

Shawarmas are typically served with fried potatoes or rice. We usually go with rice since we're already frying the falafel. For an extra kick, I recommend adding 1tbsp of olive oil and the juice from the remaining half lemon to the water for cooking your rice. Also throw in some fresh mint or oregano if you've got it.

I put all of this out on the table, and we have fun making our own delicious pita wraps. If I could just get my hands on some purple pickled turnips, shawarma night would be perfect!