Friday, February 17, 2017

Round Robin top is complete!

With the motivation of my Q1 Finish A Long Goals list, I have been a busy quilter, especially now that my MQG Swap minis are done and have been received by their recipients.

I finally (FINALLY!) finished the quilt top from the 2015 Round Robin activity I did with my guild, the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild.

It looked more or less like this when I got it back at the end of the round (I had to perform a bit of surgery on it to take out a couple of rows that just didn't work for me):

2015 Round Robin quilt top

I got out my yarn-dyed scraps along with my other scrap bins and set to work. First up, I added some larger-scale flying geese.

Round Robin progress - flying geese border

Then came a row with improv quarter-circles:

Improv quarter circles in progress

Round Robin quarter circle border

The top still needed something to widen it. Arrows to the rescue!

Arrows border

And finally a scrappy monochromatic slab for the top and we are all set.

2015 Round Robin top complete

I had wanted to get it quilted right away, but I'm setting the top aside to tend to some more pressing projects.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Meet the Host: Jess Frost of Elven Garden Quilts

It's time for another instroduction of a 2017 Finish A Long host!

Hi, I'm Jess, otherwise known as Elven Garden Quilts. This is my second year as a FAL host, and although I'm not great at actually participating in the FAL (I have a pretty bad history of not finishing anything on my list!), it's great to be back to cheer you all along for a second year. I thought this was going to be a really hard post to write - but once I got started it was surprisingly easy. So I've inserted photos of some of my favorite quilts in amongst the text - feel free to skim the words if you'd rather just look at quilts ;o).

I'm a 36 year old mum of three not-so-small people - my eldest son (12 year old) started high school this year (grade 7), and I have a 9 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. Needless to say, moments of sewing have been few and far between over the last few months while they've had their summer holidays - but they went back to school last week, so there is some semblance of normality in our household again :o). I have an incredible partner too, who encourages me in all my quilty endeavours and listens patiently when I ramble on about my current projects. We also have two fur babies - Shadow and Pepper, our little quilt-cats, who spend at least 90% of their time asleep on various quilts and cushions around the house! I'll often go back to hand stitch binding and find my quilt has been invaded by cats ;o).

We live in Tasmania, Australia - that little island that sits off the southern coast of mainland Australia. It's a beautiful place to live - we don't have a huge population and we are surrounded by some of the most gorgeous wilderness in the world (in my humble opinion!). I grew up in a pretty arty/crafty family - my Dad studied ceramics at Art School and is an art teacher at a college, and my mum has always been involved with some sort of textile art. She made most of our clothes as kids, and is now obsessed with spinning and knitting all kinds of gorgeous yarn. So it's kinda unsurprising that I've grown up to be a maker.

Although I have a science degree (and work as a lab technician part time), I've always enjoyed making stuff. I started cross stitching when I was quite young, and continued that hobby right through to my university years. It wasn't until I had my youngest child that I decided to get a sewing machine - with the intention of making clothes and toys for my kids. I had fun doing this for a while, but then on a whim I bought a beginner's quilting magazine and that was the beginning of a true obsession. For me, quilting is the perfect marriage of maths and art - I love numbers and I love working with colour, so it's not surprising it has overtaken all of my spare time!

I started quilting around 5 or 6 years ago - and back when I started, my tiny sewing room overlooked the garden - so Elven Garden Quilts was born! After a few years, I outgrew that little room, so my 'studio' is now our garage - not the prettiest location, but I can be as messy as I want (and believe me, the term creative chaos fits me perfectly!) and close the door on it so no one else has to be subjected to it ;o).

I first started blogging for a few reasons. Mainly because I didn't actually know anyone who quilted and I didn't want to bore my family and friends to tears constantly talking about my quilts, and blogging was the perfect way to share what I was making. But it quickly became a way to connect with people all over the world who shared my passion. I'm ever in awe of how supportive and wonderful the online quilting community is, and my life would be very different if I hadn't started blogging. I am a self-taught quilter, thanks to the enormous generosity of so many people in sharing tutorials and ideas, and a love of trying to figure out how to make things work!

I loosely call myself a modern quilter - although I've made plenty of quilts that are far more traditional than modern! I think I'm probably best known for my love of free motion quilting - everything I piece is quilted to death on my domestic Bernina. About three years ago, I was actually invited to become a Bernina Ambassador here in Australia, which is an incredible honour :o). I have several free motion quilting tutorials available on my YouTube channel - and I plan on doing a lot more of these this year! I've been teaching patchwork and quilting classes on a weekly basis for the last three years (although I'm currently having a break, after burning out from a pretty hefty teaching load last year), which is something I absolutely love.

Last year was a big year for me as a quilter, both on a professional and personal level. I won several awards for my quilts at some of our national quilt shows (the Australian Modern Quilt Show and the Australian Machine Quilting Festival), and I taught a lot of classes - both patchwork and free motion quitling. On the personal side of things, I feel like I really grew as a quilter. Although I've always loved making quilts and been happy with the finished product, I've struggled to find my style. But in the last half of last year I feel like I started to find my voice, and started making quilts that are more 'me' than ever before. Although I've always used and loved my design wall, I now rely on it constantly as a tool to design my quilts. Aviatrix is one of the last quilts I made using someone else's pattern - and I think it will be the last for a fairly long time. I'm enjoying doing my own thing so much right now!

The last few quilts I've made (and my current work in progress) all started as a vague idea and a giant pile of fabric, and relied on my design wall to figure out what they would become. You can read all about the process I went through when making Scattered (shown below) herehere, here and here. And if you're attending QuiltCon this year, please go say hi to her - she was juried into the show which is enormously exciting!

I recently wrote about the process of making one of my recent finishes, Flow. Again this quilt started as a pile of fabric and a very vague idea (as in, I knew I wanted to use improv curves), but the design came together through trial and error.

Although I'm much better at starting and finishing projects than I used to be (which isn't to say I don't have any WIPs - there are lots of those!), I work best when don't feel like I *have* to work on a particular project. Which is probably why I make FAL lists and then largely ignore them... Having said that, I have several projects that have been ignored for far too long that I do want to finish this year, so next quarter you can expect me to fully participate and knock over some very long term WIPs!

Thanks for letting me introduce myself (and my quilts!), and I look forward to cheering you all on this year as you work through your FAL lists!

xx Jess


Thank you, Jess!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

MQG Swap: A Tale of Three Quilts (photo heavy!)

Last year, the Modern Quilt Guild announced a mini quilt swap. I had sworn off swaps for a couple of years because of time constraints and the fact that I wanted to focus on sewing for me as opposed to others.

But with my new life and new schedule (i.e. not working for the time being), I figured I had a bit more time to invest. So I signed up.

Partner information got sent out, Instagram swap teams were set up, and all was going along swimmingly. I mulled for a while, then settled on a design and fabric. An in-progress shot:

MQG Swap Mini in progress

Before long, I had a pieced top. Since it's just a mini, I was able to get it layered and quilted quite quickly. I decided to block it after quilting so that I could coax those curves into submission. Everything was great until I was binding and noticed something that made my heart sink:

Navy blue dye ran.

The blue flowers on the fabric (which I hadn't prewashed because I was using pre-cut charm squares) had run quite a bit.

I tried to fix it but I was terrified I would make it worse. After several nice commenters on Instagram said that it was lovely and I should just send it anyway, I decided to do just that.

MQG Swap mini.

I think these rounded corners are a cool element:

MQG Swap mini, quilting and rounded corner detail 

But just in case my partner was unhappy with the blemish, I made a mini backup quilt using a gorgeous paper pieced pattern from Anne Play Crafts called Contour Feather.

Feather mini

I quilted both minis using Aurifil 40 weight thread in a warm pink (2425) that looks quite bold against the Kona Pepper background. I like it!

MQG Swap mini. Quilting detail.

Feather mini, detail 

Finally, I added a label (identifying info blanked out of course):

MQG Swap mini label

So this post is titled a Tale of Three Quilts. We've covered two. Now for the third. When I filled out my swap registration, I indicated that I would be willing to be a swap angel: someone who makes an extra quilt for someone whose original partner had to drop out of the swap.

I'd wanted to try Debbie A Quilter's Table's Cross Cut blocks ever since she did her quilt along, and serendipitously, the design seemed to work with what my angel partner was looking for.

MQG Swap, angel quilt: "Cross Cut"

I do love a low volume scrappy background!

For the quilting, I eyeballed the first, smallest curve, then just followed the previous stitched line - also eyeballed - until the whole thing was done.

MQG Swap Mini, Cross Cut

It is quirky, just like the quilt.

MQG Swap Mini, quilting detail.

Quilting detail on MQG Swap Mini

For binding, I used some of the low volume fabric and did a single fold binding to reduce bulk:
MQG Swap Mini binding

I'm glad that I could help out to ensure everyone who signed up for the swap and made a quilt gets one in return. I hope my partners like their quilts!

Bee Sewcial, January

My fantastic Bee, Bee Sewcial, has just kicked off its third year. I absolutely love creating with these amazing women.

January's prompt was from Stephanie Spontaneous Threads: RESOLUTION. Inspired by the colours in this incredible video, we were to interpret the theme in whatever way resonated with us. Since I don't make resolutions for the new year or any other time - it's just a thing of mine - I instead used the opportunity to express some of my upset about the current political climate. On edge, shattered, brittle.
Bee Sewcial January for Stephanie

I will find some resolve, I'm sure, but for now I'm still dealing with some very raw emotions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Annual Fundraiser Pillow

For the past few years, I've made a silent auction prize for my dear friend's ringette team fundraiser. First year it was a quilt (with a how-to tutorial to boot), then I scaled things back to pillows (2014, 2015, 2016).

Throw pillows have been very well-received in past years (by guys, actually, which is quite cool) so I decided I shouldn't mess with success.

pillow front

I'm perfecting my process for making my rainbow gradient pillows, so it made sense to make one for the auction:

Pillow back 

For the zipper, I used the technique from Krista Spotted Stones's book Beyond Cotton, but I used glue dried with the tip of my iron instead of pins to keep the zipper in place for sewing.

As usual, the quilting is all Aurifil thread in 50 and 40 weights, depending on what colours matched my needs.

Rainbow gradient pillow - quilting

Rainbow gradient pillow quilting

My organic quilting technique is very similar to the one Debbie A Quilter's Table describes in her wonderful tutorial. I do a few straight lines then fill in with the wavier ones, trying to more or less mirror-image the curves.

Rainbow Gradient pillow quilting detail

Like my chair? Another small-town thrift shop score. We got six of them and save for a little scratching on the seats from being stacked, these are some classic made-in-Canada church basement beauties that even still have the original rubber stoppers on the bottom of the metal legs.

Rainbow gradient pillow front

Rainbow gradient pillow back

It appears that this is my first finish of 2017! Yay! Here's to lots more!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Q4 2016 Finish A Long Winners

Did you win one of the randomly selected prizes for last quarter's Finish A Long?

Go check out Leanne's post at she can quilt to find out!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Meet the Host: Nicky Eglington of Mrs Sew and Sow

Each month, we're going to have a FAL host (or two) introduce themselves so you can get to know our lovely community of Global Co-hosts. First up is Nicky:

Hi!  My name is Nicky Eglinton and I'm one of the global 2017 Finish-A-Along hosts.  This is my second year as co-host so I should know what I'm doing.  

I live in the South of England but was born in bonnie Scotland and after a few years studying in Aberdeen and Glasgow, I came to London to get my first job!   I loved the theatres, cinema, restaurants, walking across Waterloo Bridge and looking one way at the Houses of Parliament and the other way at St Paul's.  Life was good!

Houses of Parliament to the left, 

the dome of St. Paul's to the right

Since then I have moved even further south and out of the hubbub of the City to the quiet more rural life of Sussex to raise a family with hubby. It has suited us well and we have three lovely children and a cat and a dog! Here are the pets in portrait and 'helping' me quilt!

Saffy and Maddie

In my childhood I learnt to stitch from my mother - first toys, and cross stitch, then clothes in my teens and twenties (back then it was actually cheaper to do that). 

Meet Dandelion - I still have him!

She also taught me knitting and crochet.  She loved passing on her skills though we struggled at times as she was right handed and I was left handed.  Every thing I did looked wrong to her as I was doing it in what seemed an awkward way....and there were very few lefthanded tools to help!  So I now prefer right handed scissors - in fact I cannot use lefthanded ones!!

Jumping forward a bit, to maintain my sanity after kid no 1, I went to an evening class about patchwork and quilting.  My chance to talk with grown ups!   I was completely in love with applique!   It was all I did!  And then I ended up on a course at  The Quilt Room to make this quilt in 2005!  


Friendship's Garden Quilt

by Alma Allen & Cherie Ralston

The applique was easy for me but would you believe I was terrified of the HST border round each block and the quilt remained in pieces, and on several FAL lists.

Carolyn Forster taught me piecing and introduced me to blogging!  Wow has she got a lot to answer for!  I started blogging as I wanted to record my stitching and gardening - hence my blog name Mrs Sew and Sow!

The sewing has taken over somewhat but this year I will be back in my garden and bringing lots of flowers into the house!  Wonder if a flower bed can count as a WIP or UFO?? What do you think?

Well back to that quilt I started in 2005 I kept moving it from one FAL list to the next! I have joined up with the FAL since the beginning - though I may have missed a few quarters - and it has helped enormously - mainly from all the encouragement I received from commenters who have become friends.  

Suddenly it became the time to finish that quilt! I even had to learn FMQ in order to do it!   

And here it is!  So all of you who have longterm WIPs/UFOs do not despair!

Finishing that longstanding UFO was like a release - it had been a block hanging over me!   I started actually finishing more stuff.   

Since 2012 I have been keen to meet up with people, and join in the quilting  community.  I went to the Fat Quarterly Retreats in London and learnt about the Siblings Together charity.  I have been making quilts for the charity since then - one or two to begin with, then I joined a bee to make more, helped others finish quilts and finally last year Maria and I were leading the campaign to make 100 quilts for the charity.  

The charity helps children in the UK social care system retain bonds with their siblings at holiday camps. They are given a quilt to remind them of the fun times together.  

We will be aiming to make another 100 quilts in 2017 with help from a generous community of quilters! Would you like to join us? You can find more information here and here!

I love scraps and have been running a monthly link up, #Scraptastictuesday, on the second Tuesday of every month, with my co host Leanne (who also hosts FAL).  We like to celebrate the origins of patchwork, though Leanne uses scraps in more of an improv way than I do but you will find all sorts of inspiration there! 

I am a scrappy quilter for ecological and economical reasons! I like to hang onto those pounds and pence and keep my scraps out of the landfill sites! And I just love cramming as many different fabrics as possible into one quilt.  

We would love you to join us with your scrappy projects (they don't need to be finished), plans, and storage systems.

I try to make a scrappy sampler quilt each year with tutorials showing you how to make your own!  2015 is finished and 2016 is basted ready for a finish this quarter I hope!

Liberty Sampler 2015 & Karen Lewis Sampler 2016

And now I'm setting up a local group of stitchers in Sussex with my friends and co-founders Kelly and Jane and we are actually going to meet up and stitch together in a room! And eat cake! With no children! It is starting this month!

I seem to have made lots of quilts. I find the creative process both stimulating and therapeutic. I do tend to make up my own patterns though on occasion if I love something I will try to make my own version of it.

Here are some of my favourite quilt finishes:

Top Left : Nordik Quilt; Top Right & Clockwise:  Double Sided Welsh Blanket Quilt in Karen Lewis Textiles, pattern by Mary Emmens;  Hand stitched and quilted scrappy clamshell quilt;  Vintage Squares quilt; Stingy Bee Row Quilt  (both this and Nordik were made with help from members of Bee a Brit Stingy )

And here is one I hope to finish this coming quarter!  It is my take on the traditional Double Wedding Ring (my own variation) - a lot of it stitched by hand!  I used acrylic templates made by Marti Michell to help with the cutting and designing of these blocks.

Hoopla! Quilt

My FAL list is always a long one (yes I am a member of Archie the Wonder Dog's #ridiculouslylongFAList) as when I used to choose a few items for my list I always wanted to work on something else!  Much easier to keep everything out in the open I found!

I hope you will join us on our journey to complete those listed projects and I look forward to seeing your finishes!  Remember to cheer on the rest of the community - it really does make a difference!

Thank you, Nicky! Happy stitching, eveyone!