Friday 27 May 2016

Hand quilting my la passacaglia quilt

This week I started hand quilting my la passacaglia quilt.  Of course there are many different methods to hand quilt, but this is what I've decided to do.  Some people have machine quilted their la passacaglia quilts, but I always knew I would hand quilt mine.  After all that hand work piecing it together, it seemed right to follow through with hand quilting.

The batting.  I chose to use wool batting.  It's very soft and light, and drapes beautifully. I don't know the brand because I buy it off a huge reel at my local quilt shop.

The backing. For the backing I've used the remainder of the fabric I had to buy to get the right length of border fabric. It's dark and highly patterned so the quilting won't show up on the back, but I'm fine with that.  I think this backing complements the front of the quilt perfectly. It's Effervescence by Amelia Caruso for Robert Kaufman.

The basting.  I used to baste my own quilts, but then I had a few close calls where the top moved and the back was no longer aligned with the top.  I then found out that long arm quilters can machine baste quilts on their machines for a small fee.  I've taken my last two quilts to be machine basted and I'm very pleased with the outcome.  The long armer sews rows 3" apart, with a stitch length of 1".  It means the basting is very firm and secure.  You can see some of the lines in this photo below.

The thread.  My favourite style of hand quilting used to be big stitch hand quilting with DMC Perle 8.  However, I knew that that wouldn't suit this quilt, with all the tiny pieces in it.  In January I started to experiment with Aurifil 12wt and 28wt.  I love the softness of the 12 wt and it has replaced DMC Perle 8 as my preferred thread now.  However, the 28wt is even finer, and I've decided to use it for my la passacaglia. I don't have a huge range of colours, but I'm slowly building up a little collection in the colours I will need. I now belong to a thread club at The Country Yard in Maungatapere and they post me out my own choice of threads each month.  I like the Aurifil because it is smooth and silky, unlike some of the coarser hand quilting threads on the market.

Hoop, needle and thimble.  Yes, I use a good quality hand quilting hoop.  Yes, I use a thimble on the middle finger of my right hand (I'm right handed). I use a Clover open sided thimble, which is adjustable, and save my finger getting too hot.  I always used Chenille needles with Perle 8, and still like them, but I'm using a small size now with the Aurifil 28wt.

Quilting design.  I've decided to keep the quilting quite simple.  I want the design of the rosettes to be the major feature of this quilt.  The quilting will really just serve to secure the layers together. Therefore, I'm going to match my thread to the fabrics where ever practical.  I don't intend to change thread for every little pentagon, so in some cases I'll quilt through them with the thread used on the diamonds. The star points will not be quilted..  They are too small, and there are too many seam allowances in behind them.

I've devised my own quilting pattern, based on what I've seen others doing, and what I think will work for my quilt. We have a folder of hand quilting examples in the photo albums of the facebook group - Millefiori / la passacaglia.  Just ask to join and I'll let you in!

As for the quilting on the borders - I'll think about that while I'm quilting the centre.

Marking the quilting line. I've used every method available over the years - masking tape, blue washout pen, regular pencil, etc.  I've recently bought a Clover hera marker and I'm finding that the best yet.  No marks to wash out, and no sticky needle from the masking tape. I might do parts of the quilt free hand without lines, but to get started I'm marking lines with the hera marker and a ruler.

Overall impressions.  Hand quilting a hand pieced quilt is different to quilting a machine pieced quilt. There are many bumps and lumps where the seams meet.  I did press the quilt before I took it in for basting, but there's always going to be lumps when that many seam allowanced meet up.  I'm not worried about it - it just feels different when you run you hands across it.

A hand pieced quilt is not as securely pieced as a machine pieced quilt.  I've now quilted the very first rosette I made, and I'm grateful that my English Paper Piecing techniques improved through out the course of the quilt. Hand quilting does give you the opportunity to study each seam again, and secure down and pieces which might be in danger of coming loose.  Remember - the purpose of quilting is to secure the three layers together - top, batting and backing.

How to hand quilt.  If you've read all this and think "if only I could hand quilt" then I suggest you watch this video by Sarah Fielke.  She explains it in a very simple manner.  I've watched this video multiple times, and I recommend it to everyone starting out.  Just accept that your stitches won't be perfect at first.  It's like cake decorating - you need to practice before you attempt to decorate your own wedding cake.

You can read find all my other posts about my la passacaglia quilt here on the la passacaglia page.

Friday 20 May 2016

Auckland show and tell

Last week I had to go to Auckland for work.  Yes, contrary to popular belief, I do have a day job. I work for the NZ Institute of Patent Attorneys.  I am the only paid employee, so I do everything from taking the minutes at meetings, to managing the finances, to organising social events and conferences. As a result of that, I get to travel around a bit.

Because my mum and dad live in Auckland, and my eldest son is studying there, I stayed a few extra days to spend time with them.  My mum asked me to do a little show and tell for her quilt guild on the Saturday morning - they're called Howick Quilting Friends and they meet at Howick once a month.  Here's some of the things I took to show them:

 1. Halloween table runner made from The New Hexagon book by Katja Marek.  I used Cotton + Steel Halloween fabrics for this.

2. Sue Spargo Instastitch blocks.  These patterns are available free from Sue Spargo's website. She's releasing one block per month and we've already had 3 months.  They are embellished with hand stitching using perle 8 cottons - preferably Sue Spargo's variegated eleganza threads.

3.  A modern hexies table mat.  You can find step by step instructions on how to do this technique here in this tutorial on Nicole's blog.

4.  Honeycomb spin modern hexie quilt, which I've only just finished. I learnt to do this in a class run by Anna Hicks at Nancy's Stitch Studio.  I'll write a full blog post on it soon (when I've got some good photos).

5. Oh! Christmas Tree quilt top which is finished now, and about to join the hand quilting queue.
The pattern for this quilt is in QuiltMania's Simply Moderne issue 3, or available directly from Wendy William's online shop - Flying Fish Kits. If you're interested in making this quilt you should pop over to my friend Elizabeth's blog because she is running a quilt along and has written very detailed tips and tricks to help you out.

6. My Small World - which they loved.

7. and of course my la passacaglia, which is still just a quilt top, but is next in the hand quilting queue.

It was a whirl wind visit, but everyone enjoyed the show and tell, and insisted I come back next time I'm in Auckland.

Thursday 5 May 2016

Spinning Stripes v2.0

Last year I went to a class with Shirley Mooney of Don't Wait to Create blog, and learnt how to cut a striped fabric to make new patterns. This is the result.

I finished the first quilt quite soon after the class and I was really pleased with it. You can read more about it here.

Back in March I pulled out the second quilt I had started at the class.  It had remained pinned to a sheet for about 9 months.

I played around with it and ended up changing the layout until it was similar to Shirley's original design.  You can read more about that process here.

Now I've finished my second mini quilt and I love it too.

It's hard to believe I made these two quilts out of this single piece of fabric.  It's all to do with the cutting and the layout of the triangles.

and the quilting:

Both of the quilts are 22" wide.

Thank you Shirley for a fun class and teaching me a new technique.