Sunday, 23 September 2012

Quilting the Second Compass - C's

Well quilting of the second compass has been completed.      For some reason I found myself resisting getting started and after a week of wondering why and not getting an answer, I decided to Nike it and got set up.   As always I get everything ready and bring my laptop in so I can refresh myself with Leah's video of the pattern I'm trying out.

 The brown cutie at the bottom of the photo is Leia so I have two Leia's/Leah's helping me get started.

I used a slight variation of Leah's Wiggly Tentacles as I thought this would suit the shape of the compass points and it worked OK, although I should have put the lines closer together.

 Not perfect but only getting started as this point.

As before I stippled the larger compass points as they have the writing on them, but I don't think this is the right idea.   What I hadn't taken into account is that the compasses provide 5 layers through the point, the fabric of the compasses, the foundation backing, the top of the quilt, the batting and then the flannel backing (which is heavy in itself).   So I had some problems with stitches skipping as I felt the needle almost hesitating to get through the layers, if that makes sense.   I ran out of the red variegated thread before I finished so will have to go back later when I get more to finish it off.

I really enjoyed the pebbling and felt a huge improvement on just my second try.   It needs to get much better, but I have 2 more smaller compasses to go and the final large one so I think it will get better and better.   I did have a bit of a worrying moment when I couldn't control the needle and my smooth circles were suddenly jagging in and out and couldn't figure what was going on other then my hands must be having spasms.   So I got up and made a cup of tea, studying my hands all the time although they performed that task without a problem.   Sat back at the machine sighing and just happened to look up at the display and realised I had somehow hit the button for a decorative flower stitch!    Put it back to straight line stitching mode shaking my head ruefully at myself and vowing to go back and unpick those first stitches at the end of the quilting process (I don't want any going back on myself as that will set myself up negatively) but then had to search hard at the end of quilting the rest of the rumbas to find those stitch and thought, yeah no worries.   If I can still find them at the end of the quilting process I can unpick them then, but I bet I don't.

 The "flower" pebbles are along the bottom of the rumba and go slightly up the right hand side.

Mental Note to Self:   Stop putting finger of the lens of the camera!

So moral of that story is you don't have to fix every mistake immediately, you don't have to worry about every wobbly stitch and you certainly don't have to let it put you off moving forwards.   The more forwards you move, the more confident you get and the more forgiving you can be about those early mistakes and actually enjoy seeing them as proof of the learning process and your accomplishments.    None of us remember learning how to walk but we walk perfectly now and if we were somehow to see our baby selves attempting to walk, falling down, getting up again and preserving, we wouldn't be negative or scolding of our early attempts.   We'd just be proud of how well we tried.    So we should be kinder to ourselves as quilters.

I'm thinking of trying Leah's Deco Leaves for the smaller points on the next Compass but would love to hear other ideas and suggestions.

Thanks Leah and UFO Sunday for keeping me on track.

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project

Monday, 17 September 2012

No sewing progress but design work happening

I've made no sewing progress this week due to big work project and a jam packed weekend full of social engagements (most unusual for me).

But I've worked on and off on the overall design.  The images of Cloud/Wind, Sun, Dragon, Mermaid and Ship are all to be quilted!   Yes quilted.   Very ambitious and am very excited about tackling them so it should make me focus on getting the compasses quilted without fear and delay so I can work on them.    The four moon symbols I might quilt in the corners at the edge of the quilt but I think I can only decide this when I finished the rest of the "Here Be Dragons" map images.

The four smaller blank circles and the centre large circle represent the Mariner's Compass.

The real thing, yummy.

I'm linking up with
Leah's UFO Sunday

<a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project" src=""/></a>

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The declutter's Guide to Exterminating UFO's (No More Monsters)

I am a dedicated declutterer.   I didn't always used to be.   I had report cards from aged 6 even when they weren't very complimentary.   I stockpiled letters from people from people I couldn't even remember.   I had clothes back to the sometimes embarrassing 80s that I wouldn't wear today but kept.   I would buy a beautiful new journal/notebook on a whim despite having loads unused at home.   I would buy quilting books for lovely quilts, despite having piles at home whose techniques I never used.   I would buy fabric because "that is lovely" and stuff it into drawers of years of fabric I bought because it is "lovely".

I was stockpiling things to do, things I must do, to ensure I never felt good about achieving one thing, because there was always a list of things I had bought to do and hadn't.

Is this a problem?   Well no, not if you can happily start a project and finish it and don't feel guilty because of the piles and lists of things waiting in the background for you to finish.   If you do feel guilty, if you have a harking suspicion that those piles prevent you from enjoying the moment, from embracing the project you are working on now, then it is a problem.   And you wouldn't have jumped onto Leah's UFO Sunday like Babe tucks into potato peels.

Initial Steps
  1. Lay out ALL quilting projects - this includes EVERYTHING, quilts in the drawing stage, fabrics put aside for a project, started blocks, applique, finished quilt tops but not sandwiched, sandwiched but not quilted, half quilted, quilted but not bound.
  2. Divide them into projects verbally promised (include those you promised yourself) and those which you decided you would do but not told the recipient you would make for them
  3. Put in the deadline, if there is one, on the projects you verbally promised someone they would get it by (baby, wedding, graduation etc)
  4. Think about appropriateness.   If you have a quilt started 10 years ago for a baby that is now totally inappropriate for their age, mark it as "this will not do for Mary".
  5. Look at the piles and think about how YOU feel about the quilt.  Do you now dislike the fabric, the design, the person for whom it was meant?   Examine your own feelings about the UFO - does it make you feel ill to look at it, does it represent an attempt at a new technique that you struggled with, failed at, cried at.  Or does it make you feel excited as in "I really want to do this"".
Make no decisions as of yet.   By now UFOs have moved from pile to pile to pile - early beginning but excitement at the thought of proceeding with them, nearly finished but make you reach for "quilter's helper" (wine) at the thought of them.

Be clear about what is a UFO, a Potential Project and a WIP
Some projects are a long term WIP and shouldn't be confused and negated by putting it in the UFO pile.    Two years about I cut out 49 12" blocks of plain flannel, red on one side and warm cream on the other.   I sandwiched them.   They are a quilt as you go project called my "Life" quilt.   I hand quilt it with simple designs that represent a part of my life and the people in it.      I decided that this would be a travel project.   At the time I was travelling a lot around Asia for work, so taking a block along meant I could happily quilt on a plane while watching a movie.   I don't travel for work now and get the project out once a year for when I go home to Ireland, 13 hours on the plane go by quickly as I stitch away.   My friend is hand sewing a Jane Austen hexagon quilt.   She sews it when she is on a plane, away on a chilling holiday, when she gets tired of a project she is working on and wants an excuse to watch Harry Potter.   She's been at it for years now and is still happily working away from time to time.   Both of these projects have no deadline and are works in progress.   They cause us no angst or guilt when we think about them.   They see the light of day at least a couple of times a year.   I figure if I continue sewing just two blocks a year on a long haul flight then it will be on the go for another 20 years.   I'm happy with that.   If a project is sitting in a drawer for a year with no progress and it makes you "itchy" to think of it it is a UFO.

What about the two projects I thought about (as a way of procasternation about my Mariner's Compass UFO), designed and cut out the fabric before firmly putting them away.   Are they UFOs?   Really they are BUT I made the decision to decide they are not.   They are potential projects.   I don't have to use the design I thought of, I don't have to use the fabric's I cut out for that quilt and I only ever said I would make Mary (actually Mary got her quilt years ago) a quilt in my mind.   So I put away the pieces into a small package and will use them one day, maybe for a quick emergency quilt, maybe in another round robin.    They are potentials.

So UFOs are projects in any stage which make you feel guilty, anxious, unsatisfied or slightly negative in some way.   Often they represent money.   Money spend on fabrics that are not being used and make you feel guilty about buying more fabrics.  Or simply they clutter up your space inhibiting the creative flow and you just want them gone/finished/sorted.

So now you have your group of UFOs, how could you tackle them?

Knock off the easy finishers
Seriously if you have quilts that just need to be bound, then bind them and send them on their way.  If binding is a mental block to you, then take the challenge and get them done.   Not binding a quilt is like having a letter in an envelope, address written, stamp put on but you just can't take that step to get to the post box.  You don't have to hand bind, embrace Leah's machine binding.   Also the plus side is that scraps of fabric/stash make great binding.

Knock off the non starters
There are plenty of quilt shops/groups that gladly take fabric, assortment of blocks, half finished quilt tops to finish as quilts for charity.    If you have something that just won't work for Mary (because she is now 16 and Sunbonnet Sue is SOOOOOOOOOOOO lame) and you really don't like it anymore because your taste in fabric, your standards in quilting, your choice of colour have changed over the years - give it away.   Explain to Mary that she is going to get a graduation quilt (that gives you 2 years of breathing space) and give the quilt in whatever state away.   IF you still like the fabric/pattern/colour then decide to give it to someone else's baby.   If there is no baby on the horizon, then put the project in whatever state it is in a bag (I love using sandwich bags), with all assorted fabric needed to finish it and put it away in the Quilts Waiting for a Home drawer - no longer a UFO but on pend with a clear decision that it will be finished when the occasion arises.    But you have to use it for the next baby - no exceptions.   Otherwise just give it away, there is a baby/child out there somewhere who will love it.   Even if it was a quilt meant for an adult.

Knock off the "make you feel ill to look at them" projects
We tend to believe that we must struggle through the endevour.   This is not always the case.   Sometimes we were just not ready to try Hawaiian applique and we don't need to keep the reminders of an early struggle around to negatively impact a future attempt when you are ready for it.   So as horrific as it sounds just dump it.  Yes, get rid of the crumpled, half unpicked mess.   And by doing so you could leave your imagination to joyfully soar towards a new attempt.

What can you farm out?
The year after I promised to make 9 quilts, I was left with 3 mostly finished quilt tops.   I was aware that the kiddies were waiting patiently for them, looking at siblings snuggled into their own finished quilts.   I knew I was in an emotional state where I just couldn't face those last finishing touches to the tops, then sandwich them, quilt them and bind them.   I still loved the quilts, I wanted them to be given to their owners and I knew that one day I would finish them but I didn't want the kids to wait and I didn't want to find I had the energy to finish them but that they had been so long in the UFO pile that I hated to look at them.   So I agreed to myself that I would finish the tops and send them out to be sandwiched/quilted/bound.   It took a lot of internal debate.   I felt guilty I won't deny it.   It felt like cheating, it felt wrong.   There seemed to be some covenant somewhere that I had signed into that stated it would only be a meaningful gift if I did it all myself.   But I made the decision and did it anyway.   The kids got their quilts and were happy and I relieved myself of a self imposed burden.   Once the quilts came back I was happy I had made that decision - they were quilted by someone else and it doesn't matter now 10 years on.   One of them was a border round robin quilt for me and I've slept under it for years now and don't think about someone else finishing it, I just think of it as mine.

Putting the UFOs into a working order

Hopefully now you are left with a much smaller pile of manageable UFOs.   The key decision is now what is important to you, what would make you happy?   Quilting is your hobby not someone elses.  The main point of a hobby is that it does good things for you, not for people who might benefit from the outcome of that hobby.

What techniques do you want to practise?   What is making you excited in the quilting world?   Get to the point where you get to do what you want to do.   When I was facing 4 UFOs at the beginning of the year, most of them were in blocks.   I really wanted to practise free motion quilting and get better at it.   I thought the best way to do this was to have projects lined up ready to quilt in a row.   So I tackled each quilt top until they were all sandwiched and ready to quilt.     This really put the ooomph into finishing the tops and I did that faster then if I tackled them one at a time to completion.   This satisfied my own want but also gave me the impetus to get the projects quickly to where I needed them to be.   Those blocks sat in my drawers for years, but I had them sewn into quilt tops and sandwiched in a month.   And the quilting was fun.

Decide which is more important to you right now.   Finishing quilts for other people, finishing quilts for yourself.    Will it help with inspiration and self esteem to finish promised quilts first or is it now time for you to focus on yourself?  What makes it more enticing to get started and finished on the UFOs?

Think about how you work best - facing the difficult quilts and getting them worked on first, or going for the easier ones to get the "finishing" habit in place.   Maybe an assembly line way of working suits you.   Finish all piecing for all UFOs, then sandwich them all, then quilt/bind, or you need to work through each project methodically until finished and then start on the next one.

Simplify the Quilts and Revitalise the Design
When looking at what you want/need to tackle, think about simplifying the quilt to get it finished.   Had you planned to do a 49 block ocean waves quilt and have made only 16 of the blocks?   Why not decide to use what blocks you have and use a single fabric to pad out the rest of the top?   You might find playing around with and redesigning the quilt puts new life into how you look at it and suddenly you are all excited to get going again.   It doesn't matter if you have all the other triangles cut out, you can put them aside for another project in the future.    And all that negative space will be a joy to quilt.

Stuck at the quilting stage, been stuck at it for ages?   If this is a quilt you want to get out the door so you can move forwards with other projects, you could do a lot worse then stippling the whole thing.   I did this at the beginning of my free motion quilting training.  It was speedy and satisfying and I loved the feel afterwards.   And I grew in confidence, what is any free motion design but stippling in different shapes.

If you look at some of the modern quilts it is amazing how stunning simple squares of just the right colour can look placed interestingly on a background of negative space fabric and how simple quilting lines can just pop.

Stuck with a design problem on a quilt you really want to do?   Put it aside to germinate.   Get all the other UFOs out, maybe try techniques you want to use on those other quilts.   Then when you are ready the design will flow.

Set a simple schedule
Be realistic and look at all the UFOs and what needs to be done and think about how long it will take REALLY.     Think about how you sew.   If you are lucky enough to have a space that is permanent, then it is easy to leave a project by the sewing machine and sit down for short periods regularly.   A quilt can progress really quickly by just putting 20 minutes a day into it.   And the process is more fun, at least for me.   Stop before you get tired and are still enjoying the process and things are going well.    Be over generous with the amount of time you think it will take to finish each quilt, makes you feel really good if you finish early and allows for the rest of life getting in the way and stops you feeling once again you've let yourself down and got behind schedule.   Be clear and honest to yourself about how long it will take you to clear every UFO.

Clear the Decks
Put all but the project you are working on away.   Don't depress yourself with piles of projects at varying stages of completion all glaring at you asking "why aren't you working on me?".      If you have a design wall put something up that is inspiring.   A quilt you have finished maybe and you love.   Make your quilting space as enticing as possible no matter how small it is.     If your space is a temporary one that needs to get set up and then cleared away, like the dining/kitchen table, try to make your set up easy - have everything you need to get moving on the project in a bag so it is quick and easy to set up and put away.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected
People get engaged, have babies, have an unexpected loss, graduate.   For babies you at least get 9 months to make the quilt and most people give a lot of notice for weddings.   Unexpected losses are a different matter.   My sister's husband died unexpectedly in March and after about a week I knew I wanted to make her a nap quilt as an expression of love.   I tried and tried and tried.   Rushed, and rushed and pushed and in the end made two dreadful quilt tops and had to destroy them.   I then realised that I needed time to grieve and that I wasn't emotionally ready to make a quilt for her and that in fact, despite being a quilter and that's how we show our love, I could help her in other ways, phone calls, contact and support.   In July I took out part of the quilt that I saved, the Mariner's Compass, and knew exactly what I wanted to do and finished the quilt quickly and with ease and love.

Be Selective
This leads on from why you have so many UFOs, why you can't finish one project before starting another, and why you quilt.   Why did you start quilting?  Because you thought "here is a quick, easy and cheap way to make gifts for people?".   I doubt it, it is a great bonus of being a quilter but it is easy to get sucked in by family and friends asking "when will I get one of your quilts?" and feeling that as a quilter you must honour an occasion by making a quilt.   Buy the baby a present, get the happy couple some candlesticks.   If it is someone you really do want to make a quilt for (and remember this is for those of us with UFO's hanging out of our eyeballs), then tell them "I want to make a quilt for your wedding/baby but it won't be ready for the date", be really clear you want to have the time and space to make the quilt for them you really want them to have and that needs to you to quilt clutter free.   They'll be thrilled anyway and be happy to wait.  If for whatever reason, and this goes back to being prepared for the unexpected, you need to make the quilt immediately, then make it simple and vow that this is just a small detour before getting back to the UFOs.   Don't start it if you feel that you are going to add it to the UFO list.   Sometimes as quilters we tend to feel everything needs to be complex and we forget how beautiful the simplest quilt can be.   Or be crafty and use one of your UFOs - that's killing two birds with one stone.   Basically stop making quilts for everyone at the drop of a hat.   A quilt made by you is precious and needs to be earned by years of begging/favours/compliments by a possible recipient.

So now you are organised, you've faced your quilting demons and got every possible variation of a UFO out of the closet, you know how long it will take you to finish them all, and in what order you want to tackle them.

Now you have to do it right?   Making the plan and getting organised feels great but you still have to start and suddenly the whole thing just feels like a boulder resting on your shoulders and all you want to do is just start a new project with fresh, crisp fabric.

Making the Vow - Finish What You Started
Leah mentioned this as Key 1 and I agree with that, but it is a repeatable vow so keep on making it.    Vow to clear all UFOs in the time you now know it will take to get them done.   I started 2012 with the vow of no more new quilts until I finished the 4 UFOs I had waiting and the round robin Mama Africa which will come home in early October to me.    Although I made two other "emergency" quilts, I started/finished them and got them to their new owners and got back to my UFOs.

When I had the little madness session of thinking of 4 more quilts I wanted to make and even started cutting out the fabric for them, I made another VOW.   2013 would be the year of those 4 quilts.   I could plan and design them now, adjust the designs and readjust during 2014.    I would have fun with them and think of new techniques I could try.   I also re-vowed to use as much stash as possible in my quilts.   I had sorted out stash in the same way I recommend sorting out UFOs and gave a lot away and kept only fabrics I loved.   So I looked at my stash again and sorted out what fabrics could be used for projects.   I had some fabrics left over that just didn't fit together.   They were orphans and yes I could go to the quilt shop to find matches but I already had enough fabric in my stash to make another 10 quilts so what was the point in that.   So I gave those away.   All I have left now are yummy fabrics that are possibles in new quilts and I can't wait to get stuck in to decide how to use them - in 2013!

Why Finish all UFOs?
There are so many reasons, all of them personal to us all.   For me it was a number of things, and this applies to stash as well.   I'd gotten into the habit of always having a list of quilts on the go so when I worked on one, I was pushing to get it done so I could finish the next one in the row.    I wasn't enjoying the process to its fullest.    An unexpected result was as I finished each UFO I got lighter.   I got excited about what I was doing now and what I might achieve in the future.  I got into the habit of finishing the quilts and began to stop the pattern of rushing into a new project.   The original quilting design for Mariner's Compass has changed a lot while I was finishing other projects, I gave the design time to stew, marinate and develop.  I felt free and joyful.  

Spend time designing - Leah's Key 2
As Leah says, taking the time to design and plan a quilt means you don't rush into it and create another UFO.   And the other plus is that it allows you to mature a design.   Buy yourself a lovely notebook, or in my case use one of the 14 I had lying around.   And the experience you gain in finishing off those UFOs means that next quilt will be better, you will be more assured and skilled.   Planning quilts this way means it is easy to change the design, much better then getting half way through a project and thinking "uh oh".   Stop the cyle of UFOs and think how lovely it might be to only have one or two quilts on the go at one time.

Provide a Carrot
Think of rewards.   Is there a special project you really want to do, can be a new one or a UFO on hold.    Design it, review it, lust over it and be anxious to get going on with it but don't.     The quilt will only be better for the wait.  Or maybe you want a new sewing machine - hang it out there as a reward.   Plan a special meal for when you finish each quilt.  It can be anything.    Don't be daunted by what is in front of you, the more you finish the more hooked you'll get on the experience and the easier and more fun it will be.   Turning UFOs into FOs will become the reward.    

You can do this for everything.   I did this with my lovely notebooks/journals.   Collected every one - over 20!   I gave away 8 of them.   I didn't really like them for whatever reason and that was why I wasn't using them.   I divided the others into groups, some for quilting designs, some for journal writing, some for work, some for study.   And I made the vow that I would not, absolutely not, buy another until I'd used them all up.

And I'll finish by saying that this is my experience. I don't expect everyone to want the same thing but for the first time in the 14 years I've been quilting I've given myself the time and space to really think about why I quilt, what it adds to my life and why I was getting sucked into a way of quilting that actually negatively impacted the way I felt about something I loved to do.

7th October - a small note here.

It is tempting half way through the process to start feeling really smug with yourself and think "I have this beat" and start new projects.   Resist, resist, resist.   You have not beaten the habit until all are gone and you spend another 6 months making new projects and finishing them before starting on 12 others.   One day at a time.

My Personal Pattern in Creating UFOs

After completing the first compass of my "Beast" I found myself pushing to get No 2 completed.   As I pushed away, rush, rush, rush, I had to stop and ask myself why I was working as if there was a gun to my head and the surprising answer was "Because that's how I've always done it".

When I started quilting I focused on making quilts for family members and putting a deadline on myself.   In my first year I made two children's quilt and a round robin.  Then I made an anniversary quilt for my sister and my brother outlaw, and with the contribution of the family two 50th wedding anniversary quilts for my parents.   Then I pushed the next year with another border round robin and some hug quilts.   Then decided, as they were clamouring for them, that all the other nieces and nephews needed quilts and it was impossible to decide who got theirs first so made the incredibly stupid plan to make all the quilts in one year ready for each of their birthdays.  That meant 9 quilts in a year.  I got to October and had finished 7 and my personal life imploded and the last three took another year to complete.

I still joined another 2 round robins, contributed to another 2 hug quilts and over the next 8 years began to stockpile the UFO's which were always my own quilts.   I still put impossible time lines on myself.   Quilts has to be ready by a certain date and if I failed that date,  the quilt had to be completed in a hurry to make the next deadline I set myself.   Increasingly quilts were almost late in the planning stages for completion.  Everything was a rush.   I wouldn't quilt for a couple of months and then in a burst of activity would push over a month to finish a quilt.   I was always battling with myself to complete and in my mind was a growing list of quilts I wanted to make.

The first break through was two years ago when I made a double wedding ring quilt for my cousin's wedding.   I bought all the fabric early and left the project sitting until I had 30 days to start/complete it.   I decided I could work on it in two ways - usual couple of weekends starting early in the morning and finishing late at night, rush, rush, rush.  OR I could do this one differently - set myself a 30 minute sewing period per night on weekdays and a couple of hours on the weekend.   I chose the second option and the sewing went like silk (it was a silk quilt).   I had none of the frustrations of mistakes and issues which come with sewing for hours at a time.   I stopped quilting before I was ready and so the next day was ready to embrace more.   It was the perfect project.   I had decided on simple quilting but was so enjoying the process and increasing in confidence and fun that I added more and more complexity.  This was how quilting was supposed to be.   Quilting was meant to be fun for me, I was so focused on the end result and pleasure of the recipient that I forgot that the process was meant to be fun in itself for me.

But as often, we learn a lesson and need to go back and repeat the mistakes again for a while until the lesson has truly sunk in.  

So at the beginning of this year I put a "halt to my gallop" as the Irish like to say, and as Leah's perfect blog about UFOs said, decided Step 1 was to add no more new projects until I had completed my UFOs.   Interestingly those 4 UFOs were all quilts for me from round robins I had participated in.   I was also aware that the end of September 2012 would see the end of another border round robin and my Mama Africa would come home to me - another quilt to finish for myself.   So what would be so wrong in completing 4 quilts for myself - 2 nap quilts, 1 wall hanging and 1 bed quilt?   Nothing.

I put the embargo on myself and despite two emergency quilts - new baby and a hug quilt for my sister who lost her husband, kept on track.

Then I found myself thinking of when my UFOs would be finished - what would I do?   And suddenly I came up with 4 quilts I just had to make for siblings and before I knew it those quilts were burning in my mind and even without really thinking of what I would do for them and when they had to be done by, they took over my mind and I stalled at 3 UFOs finished but the huge Mariner's Compass was still sitting on my table looking in askance as I pulled out stash, made designs and even cut out fabric for these new quilts.   Doesn't matter that there are no deadlines, that the Mariner's Compass is huge and I have ambitious quilting plans for it, that Mama Africa round robin quilt will be home in a couple of months and is 100" x 100" - no suddenly everything had to be put on hold to push through 4 QUILTS (I mean honestly what madness?) that had just popped into my mind and once again I was rush, rush, rush and leaving two huge UFOs, one on the sewing table and the other coming my way, unattended.

Stop the Madness.

I put away the designs and the fabric I had already cut out and just stopped.   And that is when Leah came up with UFO Sundays and I followed her advice and thought why?   Why was I ready to leap into new projects with unfinished ones left on the table?

I figured out a couple of things:
  • I feel quilts I make for someone else are more important then mine
  • The lure of giving a quilt to someone else is more emotionally satisfying (the "aren't I a lovely person to put myself last" syndrome) then a quilt I make for myself
  • My quilting pattern is based on finish, finish, make another, finish, rush, make another - to simply think "so and so would love a quilt" is for it to became an internal binding contract in my head "you must do this, you promised".   In other words, to think of a potential project was to put it on my list of something I MUST get done
  • Fear - of tackling a project where I wanted to do good work, increase my skills and above all take the time to do it well, so better to launch into something else.
So despite my worst self, I firmly shut the door in my mind on the new quilts and turned the power on my sewing machine and set my first stippling stiches in my last UFO - Mariner's Compass.   I would finish it and I would enjoy it.  I would explore and extend my FMQ talents and rush no more.   I will envelop and explore and enjoy.


Thinking about my quilting history made me look over past quilts and enjoy them.

Year 1 - Brian's Fish Quilt
Year 1 - Baileigh's Lion King Quilt

 Year 2 - Leonie and Andrew's Anniversery Navajo Quilt
 Year 2 - Mummy/Daddy's 50th Anniversery Quilt from their Children
 Year 2 - Mummy/Daddy's 50th Anniversery Quilt from their grandchildren

Note in the following quilts that all painted panels were created by my very talented sister in law Amanda who would absolutely forgive me and embrace that I decided to put away the ideas for a quilt for her and focus on finishing my own UFOs because she is lovely

Year 3 - Ciara's Dolphin Quilt
 Year 3 - Amelia's Fish Quilt
 Year 3 - Cillian's Dinosaur Quilt
 Year 3 - Blaise's Dino Quilt
 Year 3 - Nisa's Little House Quilt

 Year 3 - Feibhar's Unicorn Quilt
 Year 4 (supposed to be finished Year 3) - Esme's Fairy Quilt
 Year 4 (supposed ot be finished Year 3) - Matthew's Harry Potter Quilt
Year 4 (supposed to be finished Year 3) - Bryn's Quilt
Horrors, I can't find a picture of it!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Quilting the first Compass - Jo's

I've realised one of the pitfalls of blogging, procrastination.   Writing about what you are going to do helps to put off what you need to do.

I decided to quilt Jo's compass first as the fabric is so patterned that I felt none of my stitches would be too visible and it would give me a chance to warm up.

I then found myself frantically flipping through Leah's Designs to try to find one that would fit, and couldn't make my mind up, what would emphasise the compass, what would work and eventually working myself into a real state.   I even found myself mentally referring to the quilt as "The Beast" - how mean is that?

So I poured myself a glass of wine (I refer to it as quilter's little helper) and thought about it.   I could sit and think about what I was going to do forever and the Beast, I mean the quilt, would still be there, larger then life, on my sewing table raising slightly questioning eyebrows and asking silently "Well?"

So I started with what I know and stippled the cardinal points that had writing on them.

Then took another sip of wine (quilter's little helper was definitely kicking in now) and decided to do some pebbling.   I want to use that in white sections of the quilt and I've never done it, so this would give me a chance to practise.   Hmm Leah rightly mentioned in her tutorial to be careful to travel over the lines quilted before otherwise it would look dirty - harder then she makes it look.

To save me rearranging the quilt, I pebbled 3 of the sections and decided I had to do the rumba's before moving on.   Big mistake No 1, I had created a great big puff of quilt between the stabilising and the pebbling which meant I had to quilt some of the top in folds.   Sigh.   Never mind for the next sections I'd do those first and then pebble.   That worked better.

The design for the rumba's were a development, I wanted to create a separation between the different colours/points and tried a vague pattern that flowed in one direction on one fabric and then in a different direction for another.   As I moved along I turned this into a wave pattern which worked better.

So not perfect and not particularly interesting to look at but the first compass is quilted and the result?  Well inspirational flood gates opened as I progressed and I found a design I'm wanting to try in the next compass which may work well.   I feel engaged and eager to continue quilting.   It's now fun rather then a task to be dreaded.

So the moral of the story is quilting something is often better then quilting nothing and letting the task build up as a monster in your head.

Stabilising The Quilt

I simply used off white thread to blend in with the main fabric and free motioned around each of the Compasses and it took me no time at all.

One of the helpful things about doing this, apart from the stabilising was that it allowed me to get the feel of how easy/difficult it was going to be to move such a huge quilt through the sewing machine.  I got a feel for the heft and weight of the quilt and although I tried to keep the majority of the quilt to the left of the sewing machine and on the table, this is not going to work in the long run.   I think I need to put a chair by the back of the table to support some of the quilt.

What I love about the concept of free motion is that you can focus for a while on a particular area of a quilt without constantly moving the bulk of the quilt through the machine the whole time.   On one of my first large quilts, I used a walking foot and cross hatched the whole quilt, this meant rolling up the quilt for one long line, then adjusting the roll under the machine and going again.   Tedious and I felt I was spending more time adjusting then quilting.

So first step done and dusted, now to really move forward

Oh what I haven't said yet is that the batting is 100% wool which I love for the loft, warmth and ease of quilting, and the backing is flannel.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Design.....Challenges

I always knew vaguely what I wanted to do with the quilting, use symbols from old maps along the lines of "Here be Dragons".

So in the negative space I know I want to add these images:

  • Sea serpents
  • Wind blowing
  • Mermaid/Sirens
  • Sun with a face on it
  • Sea Horse
  • Old sailing ships
  • Maybe starfish and clam shells
But what to do with the compasses?

Anyway as a starting point I'm going to fix the compasses by quilting a line around the edges.

Quilting Areas
Traditional wisdom states I should start with the centre Compass and quilt out from there, but this is such as huge quilt, I know that this in itself will be a huge task and I need to work up from there.   So I'm going to at it as follows:
  1. Put a quilting line around the edge of each compass to stabilise the quilt a bit
  2. Quilt each of the smaller compasses using filler designs from The Free Motion Quilting Project 365 days - I'm not going to over think this bit otherwise I'll never start, just pick a nice pattern for each area of the compass and start.
  3. Having limbered up the fingers, I'll then start on the centre large Compass and hopefully by then will have understood what helps to emphasis the points and circles and what doesn't.   Will try to plan this bit only when I get to it
  4. Get my map images as listed above and start quilting those.   I promised that I would let them sit randomly but I don't think I will be able to due to Step 5.
  5. Use a number of Leah's sea inspired patterns as filler between the images, as there are about 6 I want to use, I will have to plan this bit but as Scarlett O'Hara would say kinda "I'll worry about that tomorrow"
What I do know is that if I sit on the designing anymore, it will be another year before I take the quilt out again and probably sit and put it all off all over again.   So I'm just going to start and start now!

OK might get a cup of coffee first and do some spring cleaning.


The Shipping Forecast - expanding the Mariner's Theme

My father, aged 14, ran away to sea at the beginning of World War II.   Lying about his age he spent the war serving as galley boy, cabin boy, cook's assistant in the Merchant Navy travelling from England to Australia, Canada and as many far flung places as a romantic boy's heart could wish.

Growing up in Ireland in the 60s and 70s when radio was much more a part of family and day to day life then television, the Shipping Forecast from BBC was a background noise, soothing and lulling despite the warnings of gale force winds and even today if I lie in my bed listening to the torrential rain of a Singapore monsoon, I feel protected and safe knowing that things indeed might be much worse off Viking.

Around the time of the block round robin, I listened to an audio book of Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly about the history of the Shipping Forecast and his travels around the coastal regions.   I listened to it 3 times in a row while walking the dog and doing my runs.

I wanted to incorporate this old childhood friend in my Compass quilt and decided to use embroidery extension of my sewing machine to do so.

With a little finageling - there are 31 regions and I had with 4 smaller Compasses room for 32 names - and using the old name of Finisterre as well as Fitzroy, I used the four smaller blocks for the region names.   I choose the block and regions based on a link between the maker and the regions.

This proved a bit of a stretch as I wanted to keep the names of the region in the order given by the Shipping Forecast.

I chose the selection with Viking for Ju as her father was from Finland so kinda sorta part of Scandinavia, although given Jo was born in South Shields, Tyne should have been hers.

Ju's Compass:  Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne and Dogger

Then I choose for C part of the group that included Thames as she lives in North London.

C's Compass:  Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland and Plymouth.

My compass choice was fairly easy, born and growing up in Ireland, I got the section that included Irish Sea.

My Compass:  Biscay, Trafalgar, FitzRoy, Finisterre, Sole, Lundy, Fastnet and Irish Sea

Jo's groupings were based on the fact she was living in Aberdeen so got the grouping with the Scottish coast, although this also meant she got a bit of Ireland as well.

Jo's Compass:  Shannon, Rockhall, Malin, Herbrides, Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes and Southeast Iceland.

For the large 47" centre Compass, I decided to use some of the most spectacular forecast warnings and quotes from poems.

Seamus Heaney's poem The Shipping Forecast

Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea:
Green, swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux
Conjured by that strong gale-warming voice,

Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown.  Sirens of the tundra,
Of eel-road, seal-road, keel-road, whale-road, raise
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.
L'Etoile, Le Guillemot, La Belle Hélène
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay
That toiled like mortar.  It was marvellous
And actual, I said out loud, 'A haven,'
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes.

Carol Ann Duffy's poem Prayer

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Stephen Fry, in his 1988 radio programme Saturday Night Fry, issued the following "Shipping Forecast" in the first episode of the programme:

    "And now, before the news and weather, here is the Shipping Forecast issued by the Meteorological Office at 1400 hours Greenwich Mean Time.
    Finisterre, Dogger, Rockall, Bailey: no.
    Wednesday, variable, imminent, super.
    South Utsire, North Utsire, Sheerness, Foulness, Eliot Ness:
    If you will, often, eminent, 447, 22 yards, touchdown, stupidly.
    Malin, Hebrides, Shetland, Jersey, Fair Isle, Turtle-Neck, Tank Top, Courtelle:
    Blowy, quite misty, sea sickness. Not many fish around, come home, veering suggestively.
    That was the Shipping Forecast for 1700 hours, Wednesday 18 August."

And some forecasts,

  • Humber, Thames. Southeast veering southwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 later. Thundery showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
  • Tyne, Dogger. Northeast 3 or 4. Occasional rain. Moderate or poor.
  • Rockall, Malin, Hebrides. Southwest gale 8 to storm 10, veering west, severe gale 9 to violent storm 11. Rain, then squally showers. Poor, becoming moderate.
  • Southeast Iceland. North 7 to severe gale 9. Heavy snow showers. Good, becoming poor in showers. Moderate icing.
And most spectacularly, on 10 January 1993, when a record North Atlantic low pressure of 914 mb was recorded:
  • Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey. Southwest hurricane force 12 or more.