Saturday 29 April 2017

Jo Dixey's embroidery

Jo Dixey is New Zealand's only professional embroiderer and she came to speak to our guild today.  Jo trained at the Royal School of Needlework in the UK and these are some of the beautiful pieces she bought along to show us.

You can find Jo on Instagram as @dixeysoul and her blog is here.

The details were just amazing and her stitching is beautiful.

Jo is now a quilter too, but embroidery is still her first love and passion.  Everyone enjoyed getting a close up look at her work.

And to cap off a very successful meeting, I won block of the month!!  Fortunately I was wearing just the right top to match the blocks on the wall.

I can't wait to sew these together and make my first ever truly scrappy quilt

Saturday 22 April 2017

Hand quilting designs

Welcome back. This is the third post in this little series about hand quilting. The first was here, where I gave my thoughts on keeping hand quilting alive in the 21st century.  The second was here, where I explained the threads, needles and thimbles I use,

Today is the third post and it's about the designs I choose to hand quilt on my quilts.

1.  This is one of the very first quilts I hand quilted.  I used masking tape to mark diagonal lines across the squares and hand quilted in black cotton.  It was a good place to start.

2. I then moved onto quilting 1/4" from the seam. I still used masking tape but found my needle kept getting sticky from the tape (because I stitched too close to the tape). This is when I started using DMC Perle 8.

3. I used a similar technique on Bordered Peacocks, but I used wider masking tape because I wanted to quilt 1" from the edge because the area to fill was larger.

4. On this Radiant Poppies quilt I wanted to break away from 1/4" from the edge, so I drew straight lines across the quilt with a washable blue marker.   I marked the lines in groups of 3.

5.  Then I decided I wanted to try free hand quilting with no marked lines!  I used Dazzle thread from Wonderfil here (it has built in sparkle). I quilted my first wavy line down the middle of the tree, and then worked out to the edges on either side of it.

6. I intended to hand quilt this wall hanging in pink Razzle from Wonderfil, but it was too hard to get the thick thread through the Batiks so I just did some accent hand quilting and then reverted to machine quilting for the rest of it. There's a time and place for everything. 

7.  Last year I made this wall hanging and decided to quilt circles on it! I used a chalk pencil and traced around some plates from my kitchen. This is where I started using Aurifil 12wt.  It's thinner than perle 8 and is lovely and soft.

8.  I made my own cloud templates for My Small World.  I don't think they really show up on the finished quilt, but they certainly add texture to the sky area. I didn't want to quilt straight lines in the sky.

9. On Oh! Christmas Tree I decided to emphasise the stars on the background fabric. I didn't have to mark any lines, I just quilted over the designs in the fabric. I'm really pleased with how this one turned out.

I echo quilted around the wool felt applique to make the birds and flowers stand out.

10.  I don't normally do cross hatching, but decided a small taste of it would work well on my Possum Magic quilt (this isn't finished yet). 

11.  I decided to quilt quite densely on this English Paper Pieced quilt.  I marked the lines with a hera marker and that's now my preferred method of marking. I didn't want to quilt in the ditch because the seam allowances can be bulky on English Paper Piecing. 

12.  Last photo - another English Paper Pieced quilt I quilted last year stiching 1/4" from the edge.  this is still my default option if I can't think of any other designs. Now I use Hera markers to mark the quilting lines. I much prefer them to masking tape now.

So, the possibilities are endless - just as they are for machine quilting.  I keep trying to stitch without marking lines, but if I want a straight line it's quicker for me to just mark it.  Otherwise I keep unpicking my stitches because they're not straight enough.

I hope these photos help some of you wondering what to quilt onto your quilts.

Remember: If you're itching to give it a go, and don't know where to start, I highly recommend this video by Sarah Fielke - it's how I learnt.  I watched it again and again until I was happy with my own technique.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Hand quilting threads

Wow! There's been a lot of reaction to my last post on Celebrating Hand Quilting - thank you everyone who left a comment, blogged about their own hand quilting or joined the Celebrate Hand Quilting Facebook group.  I guess I've made a small contribution towards keeping hand quilting current in the 21st century.

If you're itching to give hand quilting a go, and don't know where to start, I highly recommend this video by Sarah Fielke - it's how I learnt.  I watched it again and again until I was happy with my own technique.

I going to try to answer some of your questions about hand quilting here and in future posts. My next post will be about the designs I choose to hand quilt on my quilts, but today's post is about threads, needles, thimbles and hoops.

Many of you have asked me what threads I use for big stitch hand quilting.  The answer is - a variety.  I have many colours, thicknesses and types of threads to chose from.  Each quilt needs something different, and I try to make each quilt different too.

I'll explain each thread and then offer a comparison too.

1.  DCM Perle 8. 

This thread is great.  It's probably the most cost effect option in my collection and comes in a wide range of colours.  It's what I used for my first few years of big stitch hand quilting.  Here's a tip - when you get near the end of the ball and the card with the label starts to fall off, write the number inside the reel with a permanent marker.  Then you can buy a new ball without trying to colour match.

2.  Sue Spargo Eleganza perle 8 by Wonderfil

These threads are gorgeous. Sue Spargo developed the colours in conjunction with Wonderfil.  I used these threads for some of the embroidery on my #instastitchwithSue mystery quilt - see here. These threads are the same thickness as the DMC perle 8 above, and can be used for hand quilting.  However, they are justifiably more expensive than DMC perle 8.

3. Wonderfil Razzle and Dazzle 

Wonderfil have made some gorgeous shiny rayon threads that I like to use.

Razzle is perle 8 thickness and it comes in plain or variegated colours (top 5 threads in photo above).  It's quite difficult to control because it's rayon and therefore slippery, but it does give a lovely result as a special feature.  Remember to keep your thread length quite short because it does fray easily. I wouldn't attempt to quilt a whole quilt with it.

Dazzle is also perle 8 thickness and it has a built in sparkle! The great thing about this thread is that the sparkle is embedded and doesn't get in the way as you pull the needle through the fabric. I have quilted a whole dark quilt in a combination of Razzle and Dazzle and it was fine to use.

4. Valdani 12wt and 8wt

Some hand quilters just love Valdani and use it all the time.  It's very expensive in New Zealand, and not many shops stock it, so I only have one tray of 12wt that I bought online.  I like using it, but I'm not rushing out to buy more colours. I find that the 12wt is like a skinnier version of DMC perle 8. (Unlike DMC perle 12 which doesn't feel like a skinnier version of DMC perle 8.)

5. Aurifil 12wt and 28wt

I've saved the best til last! I have become an Aurifil convert over the past year.  I love the range of colours available and the different thread weights. 

I have their thread chart and can lay a true sample of the thread against fabrics to choose the right colours to order.  I started buying the 28wt to hand quilt my la passacaglia.  I knew perle 8 was going to be too thick for the tiny pieces in that quilt, so wanted a thinner thread that came in a range of colours.  

Aurifil's 28wt is very strong, and similar to Gutermann quilting cotton.See the bottom two threads in the photo above - Mettler 40 quilting cotton (black) against Aurifil 28wt (blue).

Aurifil's 12wt (teal thread on red spool above) is the same thickness as Valdani 12wt (pink ball).

I do like Aurifil's 12wt now and use it for most of my hand quilting.


top to bottom:

Wonderfil Razzle and Dazzle - these are the thickest.  Although the state they are equivalent to perle 8, I find them to be fractionally thicker.

DMC perle 8 and Sue Spargo Eleganza - these are both the same thickness - perle 8.

Valdani perle 12 and Aurifil 12wt - these are both the same thickness - perle 12 (thinner than perle 8).

Aurifil 28wt - thin and strong

Mettler 40 wt - thinnest and what I use for sections that won't be seen. 

See the difference? click on the photo to enlarge it if necessary.

So that's the threads I use.  I hope that was helpful.  

As for other hand quilting necessities:

I use a Clover open sided thimble on the third finger of my top hand. I don't have anything on my other hand, and never seem to end up with callouses. 

I use Clover hera markers and my quilting ruler to mark my quilting lines (or sometimes a chalk pencil).

I use John James Chenille needles number 24 because they have big eyes to accommodate the thick threads, and very sharp points.  I use them for all the threads above because I'm used to them and like them.

I usually have 4 needles threaded at once so I can quilt an area before I have to move my hoop to a new area. 

I have a large round, wooden quilting hoop, and I always use it when I'm hand quilting.  It keeps my tension nice and even. My hoop is 18" diameter, and I wouldn't recommend going any larger unless you have very long forearms.  

I hope that covers everything.  If not, leave me a question below and I'll try to answer your question next time.  

Saturday 8 April 2017

Celebrate Hand Quilting

I belong to a large Facebook group called Celebrate Hand Quilting.  In fact I've recently become an administrator of the group.  That doesn't mean I'm an expert at hand quilting, it just means I know my way around Facebook and can admit new members if they demonstrate an interest in quilting.  There are almost 15,000 members of the group, and they are all interested in hand quilting.

DMC Perle 8

There have been some interesting discussions lately about how to keep hand quilting alive in a quilting scene increasingly dominated by long arm quilting.

Some of the issues our members have raised include include:
- local quilt shops no longer stocking hand quilting supplies (hoops, needles and the right kind of thimbles)
- quilt shows no longer having separate categories for hand quilted quilts
- quilting magazines that have stopped even mentioning hand quilting

DMC Perle 8

My thoughts on these issues are as follows:

1. Hand quilting supplies. If your local shop won't get a product in for you, get online and order it yourself.  If you can use Facebook, you can track down a supplier.  If you're uncomfortable entering your credit card details online, make a quick phone call and order the product over the phone. (I'm not going to mention any companies here because I've used the same frame for years and am perfectly happy with it.)

Within Celebrate Hand Quilting we have Shameless Self Promotion Day on the last day of every month.  Members are permitted to advertise their quilting businesses and products on that day.  We have hoop manufacturers, whole cloth manufacturers, hand quilting teachers etc.  If you're after something it's worth becoming a member and watching out for those adverts on the last day of the month.

Aurifil 12wt

2. Quilt Shows. I personally don't think quilt shows need to have separate categories for hand quilted quilts, unless they are also offering categories for long arm quilting and domestic machine quilting.  I prefer to look at the quilt as a whole - the fabrics, design, piecing and quilting.  They all have to work together.  Examining the hand quilting in isolation means the judges are only looking at the hand quilting and ignoring the rest of the quilt. Maybe I feel this way because I'm not striving for perfection in my hand quilting,but rather using it as a way to enhance my quilt.  I know some of you will disagree with me here.

Aurifil 28wt

3. Magazines. I highly recommend QuiltMania.  I think it's the best quilting magazine available.  I know it's expensive, and it takes months to get to New Zealand, but the types of quilts they feature are truly of the highest class.  See if your library has a copy and take a look.  Or check out their website or facebook page to get a taste of the types of things they cover. They also produce Simply Moderne now, which is a different magazine with more of a modern quilting feel to it.

McCall's Quilting is very popular in USA and recently one of their editors reached out to the Celebrate Hand Quilting group and asked what kind of hand quilting articles we would like to see in their magazines.  I sent a reply and explained the modern approach to hand quilting which uses big stitches and coloured threads.  Hopefully you'll see an article on modern hand quilting one day.

Aurifil 12wt (red spools) and 28wt (grey spools)

How do I think we can keep hand quilting alive? Here are my thoughts:

 - talk about it. Tell your friends and family you're a hand quilter.  Become known at your guild as a hand quilter. Show your hand quilted quilts during Show and Tell at your guild. Be proud of being a hand quilter even if you're work isn't quite as good as some others yet.  Not all machine quilting is perfect either!

- support other hand quilters.  Follow blogs of other hand quilters and get to know those people online. Ask questions about how they hand quilts and learn from them. I've made some great hand quilting friends on Instagram and through my blog.

- post photos of your hand quilting on social media - your blog, facebook instagram, pinterest etc. Get the message out there that hand quilting is still alive and as well as honoring our ancestors, it can be fun, modern, and relevant.

- enter your hand quilted quilts into shows, even if there isn't a category for hand quilting.  Be sure to include in your description that you hand quilted it yourself.

I entered my hand quilted la passacaglia in the Online Bloggers' Quilt Show last year and it won Viewers' Choice! Yes, a hand quilted quilt won over all those fancy machine quilted quilts. Do I think people voted for it because it was hand quilted? No, not especially. I think they voted for it because it was an intricate design pieced in beautiful colours. But I was still proud to say it was hand quilted.

Wonderfil Razzle (Perle 8 thickness)

If you've got any more suggestions on how to keep hand quilting alive, just leave a comment below.  I'll write another post in a few weeks incorporating all the suggestions.

The photos in this post are all examples of quilts I've hand quilted myself.  I love using coloured threads and big stitches that let the threads shine through.

Saturday 1 April 2017

Soy Amado Quilts - the finished quilt

Back in January I showed you the Quilt As You Go (QAYG) blocks I'd made to send to Alison in Guernsey.  As soon as she got them she dropped everything and combined them with Carla's blocks to make a great quilt!

This quilt will now be sent to an orphange in South Africa and a little child will receive their very own quilt for their bed.  You can see photos of some of the children with their quilts on Alison's blog, Little Island Quilting.

Carla of Granny Maud's Girl made the yachts and planes blocks which add real interest to the quilt.  You can read more about her yachts here, and her planes here.  It was great to co-operate with a friend on this quilt because we could discuss the colours before we started.

I call Carla a friend, but we have never met in real life.  We met online, and we have continued to correspond online.  Unfortunately Carla lives in Perth, Australia, which isn't exactly one of those places you pass through on your way to somewhere else.  My best hope of meeting her is to meet up in Melbourne one day, because it's about half way between Wellington and Perth.

I made the background blocks and used up some of my large stash of blue fabric.

If you'd like to make some blocks for Alison, please read her blog here for directions.  The good news is that there are no rules about colour or style - the only rule is that they must be quilted and measure 12.5" square.   You don't need to make 20 because Alison can combine your blocks with those from other people.

Thank you to Carla and Alison for making this quilt possible.  I really do hope it makes a little child happy, and maybe even inspires them to become a pilot or a sailor.

You can read my earlier blog post about my blocks here.