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What is a quilt for?

To me a quilt is for keeping warm, sleeping or snuggling under and making tents or superhero capes.  It is to be used and loved and washed. This is what I make my quilts for and when I gift them it is how I want them used. Even my quilts that have won ribbons are on the beds for children and occasionally dogs to lie on. They are used every day.  Why then am I hung up on perfection? Does a cut off point or wobbly stitch or varying stitch length stop it achieving the above purposes - NO! Of course not.

A few months back Crystal at Two Little Aussie Birds was asking for pattern testers for her patternModern Medallion. I was intrigued and so volunteered.  I am so grateful Crystal asked me be a tester as I love this quilt and it has changed my approach to making quilts. Thank you Crystal, I seriously love this quilt. I had fun learning to embrace my inner wonkiness, and was reassuringly surprised how hard it was to be deliberately wonky.  I learnt to love the 'curves and edges and perfect imperfections' which, incidentally is what my version of the quilt is called.
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I am very proud to say I made this quilt entirely from my stash, mostly my DS fabrics from Spotlight bought on sale a few years ago. I love Denyse Schmidt fabrics as I think she does the vintage look so well.  I knew I had to use cotton batting so that once the quilt was washed and dried, it would be shrink a little and look old and loved and crinkly. 

I have loved all the different version I have seen on Instagram (use the hashtag #modernmedallion to check them out). They all look so different. There is a Facebook group and a blog hop quilt-a-long - got to love a bit of moral support when making a quilt, especially if some techniques are new.  For my version I thought I’d use a lot of colours, and while at first I thought it as it was a bit too busy, now I think the cool tones of the blues and green seem to tone it down. I am glad I didn't over think it and just went with my gut (probably should apply that theory in other aspects of my life).  Who knew I could love pink and yellow?  

I have enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures of how bloggers whose work I admire have approached the various borders of this quilt. I thought I would share how I quilted it.
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I made some rules beforehand (rules to increase the fun).

1. No ripping out stitches
2. No marking
3. To use fabric and piecing for inspiration
4. To have fun and not over think it

I haven’t quilted a medallion quilt before but have been looking forward to this part since I first starting making this quilt. I was inspired by Angela Walters, both in quilting style and in approach – fun and not aiming for perfection. Which to me is the lesson I learnt from this quilt right from the start. I don't mean I was careless just that I aimed for something and what I did was good enough. There was times my thread build up and wobbly lines bothered me but I persevered and don't even remember now which bits it was that caused me to doubt my skills. 

I used my walking foot to stitch in the ditch of each round and then had fun! For the centre (New York Beauty Contest) I used the fabric print of each quadrant to inspire the quilting – some grid patterns (straight line and orange peels) on the plaid fabrics and floral and swirls on the others.

Don't you think having cute names for each border helped make the process even more fun?
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Simple and quick loopy loops for the ‘Plain Jane’ and chevrons on the ‘Drunken Geese’ round were fun. ‘Waving not drowning’ was my favourite border. I thought the curved line reminded me of the spine of a feather – I originally planned to quilt a feather on both sides but liked the look of one sided feather when it was done and so simply echoed the other sides curved seam line 3 times. 
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I quilted interlocking squares on the ‘Cross my heart’ border and used my walking foot and a serpentine stitch on the ‘Stuck in the Middle’ border.  For ‘Equal Rights’ I echoed the shapes in the coloured triangles and did a loopy design in the low volume parts. Finally back and forth lines and an orange peels pattern in the last border (I was Framed) made me very happy. By sticking to my rules I had fun and it was rather quick. It took only 2 evenings including binding by machine to finish. 
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Just because I love this quilt so much, here is one more photo. 
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If you haven't got this pattern, I urge you to check it out. The pattern has lots of diagrams and is a joy to make. It is also quite a stash-buster.  My version isn't perfect but I think it is all the more beautiful for it. I hope you like my 'Perfect Imperfections'. I learnt that aiming for perfection isn't realistic and robs me of much joy when quilting. Ultimately it is the quirky and imperfect that attracts us and I think part of the reason I love this quilt is that I had fun and didn't stress about the process. 
 
 
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Firstly - look at me! I am blogging. I really have missed it. I keep letting things get it my way. Not tonight! I thought I'd show some pics of a quilt I recently quilted for my mum. One thing you should know about my mum is that she likes big quilts. Really big quilts. This one fits my mum's queen bed with lots of hang over. As soon as I saw all the white space I knew I had to do feather. It was fun but tough on the my shoulders and more than once I wished I'd had a long arm!. 

I quilted this on my domestic machine . because it is on the diagonal by the time I got to the middle it was very long. I also wanted to keep the feather going in the same direction which meant more and more bulk under the arm. I did the last few rows on my mums Janome Horizon as is has more space than my Bernina 440QE. Even with the 11" I was struggling towards the end. When my shoulders threatened to turn in to rocks under the pressure...I quilted the last feather upside down. It felt very foreign and they weren't as pretty but I could see no other way. I found it easier to draw the first few inches of the feather to get the shape in my mind. As m uch fun as feathers are, I had had enough by the end was very happy when mum offered to finish the quilting herself with straight lines in the red section. 

Thanks for visiting! I am linking up with Gemma @prettybobbins and will be back next week with a modern quilt that has changed my views on the quilt making process.  

Have fun, try and do a little bit of what you love each day. 

Jo
 
 
Well it isn't really a fail. I just haven't managed to finish it for the final link up.  It is however a hugely significant piece to me. Thanks to Jen Kingwell's beautiful pattern - I have discovered hand sewing! And I LOVE IT!
I had attempted hand sewing before but gave up as it was slow and didn't look as good as my machine work. As I had joined up with a quilt-a-long and I had the encouragement of the wonderful community on Instagram I  pushed on. The result was once I got over the awkwardness I first felt, I began to see the benefit of having something small and portable. It is more social. I can sew while my kids play in the paddling pool. I can sew while my hubby watches his shows in the evening.  I can sew while popping over to my sister's for a cuppa and now that school is back I have something to do while I sit in the car queue outside the school. 
I love hand sewing so much that I have started another hand sewing project. This is also by Jen Kingwell and is call 'Green Tea and Sweet Beans'. I am debating whether or not to do it entirely by hand as opposed to MATO where I only did the applique by hand. It is a huge revelation for me - I am a born again quilter! Ha ha.  
Take care and try and do a little of what you love each day. 

Jo

PS where did January go? 
 
 
Lately I have been enjoying making cushions (or pillows to my American readers). I have also been enjoying playing with a new toy. My Slice Fabrique cutter cuts the cutest little applique shapes, though what I got it for was the fonts. I have many ideas for projects for children (cushions and wall hangings) and like the idea of putting the child's name on it. The Slice cutter cuts the letters in a variety of sizes and is a welcome toy to my craft stable. 
To cut the shapes fusible web is applied to the back of the fabric and once it is cut the shapes is fused to the background and stitched down by machine. I hope the gorgeous children these are intended for enjoy them. I had fun making them and have quite a few more ideas in mind for other young friends.
I also have used the Slice cutter to make some little gifts for my Mum and sister. 
Take care and try and do a little of what you love each day. 

Jo
 
 
Wow! Where did 2013 go? Did anyone else think the year just flew past? One year ago I started this blog. I have really enjoyed sharing my quilting adventures with anyone kind enough to drop by. I set my self a challenge of a quilt a month and I am happy to say all the tops are finished. I am yet to quilt some of them and am well behind in blogging about them. I will catch up on blogging over the next few weeks and hopefully will have pictures of fully completed, quilted and bound quilts to share. I do have pictures of a few projects to share though. 
2013 was my oldest son's first year at school and it was the best possible start to his education. The reason he had such a brilliant year was down to the care and efforts of his wonderful teacher. As a token of how much we appreciated her efforts I made her a table runner. I had so many idea and really struggled with what to make. I happened by chance to spy a charm square pack at my local quilt shop and that was it. I knew what I wanted to make. 
At the beginning of the year, Mrs Dunn gave all parents a lovely poem about how she would care for our babies and attached to the letter was a little butterfly. At the same quilt shop I happened to spy a butterfly stencil and knew I needed that too. I quilted this simply the straight lines except for the butterflies. I hope you can see them in the photo. 
The picture above is a quilt I quilted for the lovely Angie of GnomeAngel. It is a gorgeous quilt. I was so anxious about quilting for someone else, although it is a direction I want to go in. I still have great doubts about whether what I did is good enough but it was honestly the best I could do. I quilt on a home domestic sewing machine and I like doing it that way. The problem is that big patterns like these circles are hard to keep smooth as I have to pause and re-position my hands often. In hind sight I should have done a smaller pattern so it would be smoother and less 'organic'. I probably also should have done something I had done before and knew I could do well. Saying that, I think the quilting looks like I imagined it would and I will use this pattern on one of my quilts in the near future, possibly my 'Scrappy Trip-A-Long'.  I was aiming for the circular rippling pattern that rain drops make in a puddle - circles to contrast with all the squares. 

Welcome 2014!  May you bring lots of sewing!

Jo
x
 
 
I haven't blogged for a few weeks. Life has just been a bit ... bleurghh. Nothing major - just feeling tired and lacking motivation. I have managed to do a bit of sewing though and would like to share my progress on my Midnight at the Oasis quilt. I am a little behind many of the others in the quilt-a-long but I am looking forward to lazy days over the next few weeks and catching up. 
I didn't follow the instructions for the applique border. Normal technique would involve doing the applique and then attaching the borders. I was disappointed when I attached all the orange peels (read here) as it didn't look like I imagined. So I attached the borders and then arranged the applique pieces as I didn't want to have a similar reaction when I put it all together. I used the same method I did for the orange peels to prepare all the shapes for the circles and flowers and attached then with applique basting glue (Roxanne's). It has taken me weeks but all the pieces are stitched down and now it is time for the churn dash border. 
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These blocks are 3" finished. So tiny and so cute. I was worried about them but they are addictive. I used my AccuQuilt 1" HST die to cut corner blocks and then made the rest using strip piecing and a centre block. 

They are tiny and so easy to mess up if your 1/4" isn't spot on. I used a thin thread and smaller than normal needle to help improve my accuracy.  The truth of the matter will be revealed though when I attach all of them when they are done. 

I have had some issues using the die. A lot of threads weren't cutting properly. This is the first issue I have had with any of my (rather numerous) collection of dies. I did try another method to make the churn dash blocks and have to admit to being rather chuffed at how they turned out. I though I'd share the method I used as a bit of a tutorial. I should admit I didn't come up with this method but can not remember where I first saw it done. Sorry, anyway this is what I did. 
I made pinwheel blocks using my 2" finished HST die. I chained pieced 4 pairs and then joined them together. If you were cutting this normally you would cut a 2 7/8" squares in half (you need 2 squares or 4 triangles of each colour).
Then I made 1 1/2" cuts horizontally and vertically across the blocks. These cuts gives 9 little blocks measuring 1 1/2" each. A little rearranging of the blocks makes a churn dash block with a extra tiny pinwheel block in the middle. 
Amazingly making the blocks this way measures 3 1/2" (unfinished) and even more surprisingly they are the same size as the other ones I made. I swapped the centre pinwheel around to make it a little more interesting and to contrast with the rest of the block so the churn dash stands out more. 

I have been sewing a few other things but will leave them for another post. I hope everyone is well and managing to do a little bit of what you love each day. 

Jo
X
 
 
It is only a quick post this week as it has been one of those weeks. Sick child, new puppies and husband away for work. No point complaining as I still managed to sew a little. Recently I got the new hunters star die by AccuQuilt and just had to try it out. I love it and can see a quilt using this pattern in my future. It was so fast and went together perfectly. Months (possibly years) ago I made a Dora the explorer quilt for the cute daughter of a friend. I kept meaning to give it to her but wanted to make something for her brother as well. As soon I found this robot fabric in my stash I knew this would be it. 
The red solid fabric and the black and white chevron fabric seemed just perfect together. I quilted it using a pattern of interlocking squares. I have done this pattern before and love the texture it gives. It went well with the robot fabric as it looked a little like a circuit board. I quilted this using my walking foot, pivoting with the needle down and turning 90 degrees. I would not quilt a bigger quilt using a walking foot as it would be too hard to turn the quilt so often. I have done this pattern using a free motion foot successfully, though it was a little harder to get right angles and straight lines. I used my new love 50 wt Aurifil in silver. Love, LOVE this thread. To make it a little more special I applique Kyle's name on the back. I have heard from the children's parents that they like the gifts which makes me very happy. Incidentally printed panels (like Dora above) make great free motion practice pieces.
Hope you are all having a good week and finding time to do a little bit of 
sewing or whatever it is you love to do. 

Take care 
Jo
X
 
 
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The topic for this weeks blog past is another little project. It is not a cushion this time but a little table topper. I have written in the past about how much I love my Go! Baby die cutter by AccuQuilt. So when I got some new dies this week I just had to make something. You know how it is, sometimes you just need to start something new, regardless of how many other projects you already have on the go or how much housework needs doing. 

I did this all by machine, hence it was quick and easy. I also got to try out some new thread. 100% cotton mako by Aurifil. I am in love! It is so smooth and has a beautiful sheen. I used it for both the piecing and quilting. It was a dream.  

I also tried a new method for finishing it. Rather than bind around so many corners I decided to stitch the backing face down on the top, stitch around it, leaving a small gap and then turn inside the other way. Like a pillow case.

I marked a small flower in the centre of the hexagons and then using my new love - Aurifil, I stitched around the design. In the outside ring of half hexagons I free motion quilted a feather using the seam as a spine. I found on the first ring that when I completed the ring the last feather plume can look a little awkward where it joins with the first one.  I have had this problem before when quilting feathers on borders of quilts.  This time I found though that if I started with a half plume (think half heart shape) that when I complete the ring it was easier to make a smooth connection.  
I am linking up with Gemma again (see her I-quilt-linky party button on side bar). Take care and try and do a little bit of what you love each day. 

Jo
x
 
 
It is Thursday and I am linking up to Pretty Bobbins I Quilt linky party. I have just read Gemma blog post about confidence and it has got me thinking. Why are we out own worst critics? 

Recently I have been working on my Midnight at the Oasis. This quilt has been a journey and I am only one border in. I managed to keep up with the QAL and finish 20 orange peel blocks by hand! I have attempted hand applique before but had never even finished one block, so I was a bit chuffed. I was even starting to enjoy handwork and was congratulating myself on a job reasonably well done. That is until....I started sewing them together. My heart sunk, I felt like crying. It just didn't look nice. My orange peels didn't meet up nicely and I felt like giving up. I probably would have done just that, if the lovely peeps of Instagram hadn't encouraged my by their kind comments and likes. 
When I look at this picture I realize my aversion to this quilt it isn't as strong now. I think the problem is in my head. I have a strong idea of how I want my quilts and projects to look and when that doesn't happen, it can be disappointing. It doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't look good though. I have had projects in the past, that half way through I don't like but when I persevere I start to like them again. In fact more often than not I have a crisis of confidence mid way through a project. My hubby is very good as encouraging me to keep going, just another reason to love him. I have had a few days off from my MATO and I am almost ready to start the next border. I will link up with the QAL on Friday (button in my side bar).

When a project is a gift the confidence problem can even be worse. The sunshine cushion above was made as a gift for a friend. I personally love handmade gifts - they cost more than money in a way. They contain time, energy and emotions. But when I am the one giving the gift (Gemma mentioned this too) I worry that it isn't good enough. It helps though is I like something and I happen to like this little cushion.
This cushion is made from parallelograms (I love saying that word) cut quickly and easily using my AccuQuilt Go Baby. I quilted it at first using my walking foot. I echoed the seam lines using the edge of the foot as a guide. I then filled in the spaces between with some of my favourite fillers all inspired very much by the work of Angela Walters.  It is hard to see in the pictures - I used spirals, pebbles, feathers and dense back and forth lines. I have said it before (and not doubt will say it again), cushions (pillows) are a great way to increase skill and boost confidence. I have a few others on the go. They have both been quilted using my walking foot, I just need to make the backs and finish them off. 
Take care and enjoy what you do. If you have fun making something, don't criticize it - love and enjoy it. 

Jo
x
 
 
I have really been enjoying linking up to Gemma from Pretty Bobbins weekly I-Quilt Linky party. It has helped me get out a blogging rut. I have gone from once a month to once a week and soon hopefully even more frequently. I have enjoyed very much looking at other peoples quilting and reading all the hints and tips especially those that come from Gemma. I am delighted that a few weeks ago Gemma featured my post (and pictures of my cushions) on her blog.

I have been following Gemma on Instagram and really love her work. It is funny the week she wrote about stippling I had thought about doing a post on stippling. Then this week I thought I'd write about how I have grown as a quilter. Lo and behold Gemma's post is about growth! (great minds....)
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I'd though I'd share some pictures of my FMQ practice pieces. Some are very cringe worthy but I don't mind sharing. We all have to start somewhere and I am so glad I discovered my love of quilting. I honestly love it and find myself wanting to volunteer to quilt other people's quilts. 

At first I used slubby old thread from my dressmaking stash and nasty unbleached calico to practice on. Then I read you should use the best materials available to practice with. It made sense - why learn to stitch with thread I'd never use on a quilt top. So here are some pictures of some of my practice pieces. Enjoy the uneven stitches and lots of very jagged curves. I have included some more recent pictures so hopefully you can the see improvement. 

The following is the same motif done 3 years apart. I know which one 1 prefer. 
I now tend to mark my quilts a lot less, especially for more modern quilts. I also don't so as many practice pieces and just start stitching straight on to a quilt top. Being prepared to rip out the stitches if necessary, unfortunately this is more often than I'd like to admit. I also have made some of my better practice pieces into something useful, like the mini quilt following which I use as a dust cover for my machine. 
Take care and try to do a little of what you love each day

Jo 
x
 
The Elven Garden