Sunday, 28 October 2012

Quilting the Centre Compass - The Beast


Well phew, the large centre compass is finished.   It took me longer then I planned and hoped due to a number of factors.   Primarily my clever plan of quilting the smaller compasses backfired big time.    Instead of being able to squish the quilt under the throat, due to the heavy quilting on the smaller compasses it was very difficult to manage and really impacted my ability to manage any intricate quilting on the large compass.

So I fell back to the old standard.   Pebbling on the rumbas, large and small stippling on the large compass points, Leah's Wiggly Tentacles on the smaller points and then used half of the Leah's Wiggly Woven Lines and Leah's Deco Leaves which I think worked quite well.

I also had issues with bunching as I quilted sections close together, nothing I can do but quilt them flat.
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I was tempted to be disheartened and feel like I had ruined the quilt due to rushing, quilting sections without thought for how it would impact the rest of it and so on.   But I'm choosing to take this as a huge learning by doing experience.     This is my quilt and not a gift for someone else so I can chill a bit about quality and basically I'm getting a lot of quilting practise under difficult circumstances.

I'm delighted to be able to focus on the next sections, decorative quilting which should be easier to manage as they are along the sides so I'll be able to keep the majority of the quilt to the left of the needle and not stuffed under the throat.    I'm also looking forward to using lots of Leah's water/sea quilting patterns to fill out the rest.

My machine is going to the doctors tomorrow for an overhaul while I'm in Macau for work, so we'll both come back refreshed and ready for the next section of quilting.

What I have realised is that for me having a quilt sitting around as a UFO means that when I come to quilt it, I already feel like that project has been around for ages and feels behind and a bit stale.    I'm really looking forward to starting a project from scratch and seeing how the quilting feels.

I had wanted to do two large nap quilts for family for Christmas, but as I have to post them by middle of December if I don't start now then I won't be finished in time.    I really don't want to put Compass on hold.   I just feel strongly that I must finish it completely and not get distracted by something else.   So I've decided that these quilts are going to be Valentine Day presents, both are single ladies so I think that will be a lovely surprise and I won't be pushing to get them done for a very close deadline and having a quilt half finished waiting for them to be finished.     I have to say it feels very good to have made that decision and not fall back into the old ways.

So all in all the Compass isn't proving to be the showcase of my quilting abilities that I had always fantasised about, but boy is it proving to be a complete blessing and teaching tool about myself, overcoming adversity and simply just doing and not procrastinating.   I have a feeling this is a quilt I will pull out on bad days, when life seems to be going wrong or not working out how I had hoped and I'll be able to lie underneath it and reassure myself that a quilt is layers of fabric held together by stitches and is not about quality or perfection, but warmth, colour and effort, just like life.

Again many thanks to Leah for keeping me on track.
UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Quilting the 4th Compass - Mine

Well the 4th compass is completed.   I started really well, enjoying everything, even the challenge of using a thread that will really show up on the curves for my pebbling.   I still like pebbling but I noticed that if I do more then 30 minutes then I get careless and "just get it done" syndrome comes into play.

So all went well until it came to the white points.   I'd looked at loads of the 365 Designs and couldn't find a design like Leah Day's Channel Weave that I liked as well from the straight line ones and then decided to do Leah Day's Flame Stitch to make it look as if Sun Rays were coming out of the compass.   I started cheerfully enough, tried the first one in one direction and the second in the other and decided that it was too busy for this part of the quilt so decided to adjust the design and do one big flame and echo coming in and as I started I just lost oomph!   It all became blah and tiresome and suddenly I was totally tired and bored with this monstrous quilt and I knew I was facing the huge compass where the design is very important and I can't get away with just trying stuff as I've done in the smaller compasses.

I sat and stared and was within an inch away, no make that a seam allowance away, from bundling up the quilt and getting out the bits I've cut for a new quilt and start piecing.   And normally that would be a good idea, have a break, get productive on something else while the batteries recharge.  BUT this is a UFO and yes I know technically that it is now a WIP and I have no more UFO's piling up, this quilt has been sandwiched for over a year and I know I have to get it done. 

I tried several ideas in my mind, I could just stipple the rest of it or straight line quilt it, boring but quick, I could use those idea's I had in another quilt one day.   But I knew that this was a cop out and actually I'm really looking forward to quilting the white but the Big Mama Compass is in the way.   I also thought well leave the Mama til the end but that seems like another cop out and I think would haunt the rest of the quilting.

It being too early to reach for quilter's helper (wine), I told myself to do just one more section in my revised flame design.   I wasn't any more happy with the result but it was quick.   So I did another, and another and finished.   There wasn't a huge Woo Hoo but there was a sense of accomplishment.   And having finished I realised that what I was dreading was the sewing of the big compass.   I have no idea's for design and worry I'm going to choose something that is awful and that piece is just too big to randomly try something/anything.

I'm definitely going to do pebbling in the curves as with the other compasses and I'm very comfortable with that design choice.   But........... the rest.

So I'm reaching out here, please, please, please send me ideas, suggestions because I know that if I get stuck after the pebbling this UFO is going to go back into the trunk for another long while.

Note that this compass is 47" and is a monster in itself.   It has the same writing on the large cardinal points at the others.   Those I stippled in large and small but I have a feeling on these it will seem a bit bland.    

The Monster that is causing me sleepless nights!
I've also figured out that the smudge on my camera is not due to my finger but something on/in the lens, cleaning doesn't work so off the camera shop for me.

Am linking up with Leah

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Quilting the Third Compass - Ju's

Well the quilting of the 3rd compass is completed.   It's been finished for a while now but a busy work week and a lovely weekend last week stopped me from posting.   I had a 6 hour Skype session with Wales as we had the handover of our 2 year border round robin.   12 women, 12 quilts with a 2 month rotation.   The quilts are amazing and I hope to start a second blog about the round robin and the process in November when I've finished Mariner's Compass and get the quilt into my hands.

Anyway the quilting of this started off lovely.   I decided to continue stippling the compass points but this time used a combination of large and micro stippling in the side by side points to see if that would give a subtle shading and help the points to stand out.   I'm not sure it did but it was great practise for micro stippling so will continue with that design for the 4th compass and possibly the large.

The pebbling continued well and I feel like I'm really getting the hang of that.

Leah suggested Channel Weave for the rumba's and it worked beautifully I think.   The combination of the curves in the darker points and the straight lines in the lighter ones has really made the compass pop.   I'd love to do it for the 4th compass but have promised myself a different design on each one.   So am looking for suggestions for the last in the rumba's while I finish off the stippling and pebbling.

However the sewing of the Channel Weave was a, how do I put it?, well frankly a bitch.   My tension was completely off and suddenly I had major skipping of stitches.   I did everything all my books suggest, checked both tensions, re-threaded the machine, changed the needle and NOTHING worked.   I had taken receipt of my Ultimate Free Motion Sewing Kit and was so anxious to try it.   I put in the washer and the glider and it made no difference.   Well actually the glider was a joy so I felt the difference in moving the quilt but the stitching was a pain.

When we started quilting years ago (the Friendship Quilting Group) we did a number of block round robins and the rule was to use unbleached calico in each block with a colour.   The problem with calico is that it comes in many different weights and I noticed that Ju used an almost upholstery weight of calico in the white rumbas and also the curves where I did the pebbling.    I didn't have a problem with the pebbling, it just started with the rumbas.   

I went back to my test sandwich but the problem is that it is standard quilting weight calico on both sides, not a mixture of flannel beneath and the heavy calico on top which is what I was working on.

I'm going to take my machine in for a service but that will have to wait until next week so what should I do NOW?   I had a couple of choices, leave that part of the quilt and move on, stop quilting until the machine is serviced or just battle on.   I decided to battle on.   I think I felt that if I stopped then some sort of fear would just grow and magnify and there would be a real danger that I would just simply put the Mariner's Compass aside for months.

I had a strong desire to stop quilting and start piecing a new quilt.

Normally I would say just stop and do something else that is more pleasant, leave the battle for another day but I'm working through a last UFO here and I just felt it was important to continue on.   That having a problem with a particular area of a quilt was part of the reason I let so many pile up in the first place and I know that having an unfinished quilt and then starting on another makes me feel a bit anxious and rushed with the new quilt and vaguely guilty.   Starting something with enthusiasm and then stopping when it gets a bit hard or I hit a problem or begin to feel a bit bored is a pattern for me in a lot of things and it felt critical that I didn't do this again. 

So the choice was made to just push through.   Where stitches skipped I used that as a chance to practise travelling.   I told myself that with everything, even the fun things, there are bad days and it is better to push through if you can rather then stop.   This is not a show quilt and I'm happy to have that area of the quilt to remind me that I didn't give up and life, like the Olympics, is sometimes a matter of taking part but not winning.

What I did notice with the quilting was how important the position of the quilt is.   I don't have much option with Mariner's Compass, at 90 inches by 90 inches I cannot change the positioning of the fabric, I had to adjust the angle I sew at.   I started working from the point towards me and back up to the curve and it was great.   I had no problems with the pattern, Channel Weave needs changes in direction so you have to think a bit especially in the beginning.    In all I felt it was easy and loved working on it.   When I had to work with the point to the left and the curve to the right, it was more difficult and I lost my way many times.   When I finally worked with the point at the top and down to the curve it was super difficult especially as the fabric began to bunch up into the curve.   

So sometimes it is not that a pattern is difficult but that the positioning of the fabric isn't ideal.   If I had started trying Channel Weave with the points to the top and the curve at the bottom I might have given up.   So another lesson is to relax and just wait and see how things progress, don't immediately think "I hate this pattern" or "I'm so bad at quilting".

So Compass 3 gave me a lot of challenges but also a lot of learning.     I didn't have to push through, and wisdom would say stop doing what frustrates you and move to something more pleasant.   That is my pattern in UFOs and this time I decided not to.   I think when the quilt is finished I'll look at this compass fondly and it will remind me to put on my shoes and go for that run, get the books out and study even for 30 minutes, pay those bills, take out the trash or whatever it is that I'm itching to avoid.

And I finally moved my study desk into the sewing room and put it at the back of the sewing trestle so I can spread the quilt out and not have it bunched at the back of the machine.   I think that this will make a difference for the better.    I'm going to experiment with the feed dogs in the up position for the next compass.

I'm linking up with:

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project