Thursday 24 March 2016

WIP - traditional blocks made modern!

I've been having fun making some colourful blocks!  I'll be giving a workshop in June on traditional blocks made modern and I've been designing up a storm, working out dimensions, playing with colour and having great fun shopping for solids!  As its my first workshop I might just be over preparing but I have to say I am really enjoying the exploration of it all.

It may have seemed a little quiet here on the blog and getting the time to comment on my favourite bloggers posts.  It's been a busy time of it, some stressful with health blips popping up in the family and the dog!  Some not so stressful with lots of workshops and guild work.   I'm on the committee of our local branch now so getting more involved in guild work and continuing to admin the Modern Quilters Ireland group.  But I have been making and sewing throughout and  reading lots of blog posts on my iPad even if I don't get to comment on them all! 

Lots of people have written about finding that balance between making, blogging, other social media, family and the day job and there are times when it can seem too much but I love blogging and I love making so I'll keep trying to find a way to share as much as I can.  At the moment, trying to post once a week seems to work and after June I really look forward to be able to share some of the finished quilts I hope this round of designing will result in! And then maybe get back to the other 30+ projects on my to do list!
This is my first block, my modern take on the economy block.  I've made this one in solids but think it might just be the thing to showcase some of my dog fabric.

The centre square is 5.5" finished and it could be fun to strategically cut some cute doggy faces into this square and frame with some dog bones!  I have worked up a version to use a charm squares too so am trying to decide which size to make and be consistent!  Decisions, decisions....

I've also had fun playing with colour for a very simple offset log cabin construction.
So far I have 3 blocks made for this which will be set into this Kona Mango.  Orange might not be to everyone's taste but I love the idea of using it for a background colour and am enjoying trying it out!
 This is where I've gotten to this week!
And there will be lots more on the way so I hope you'll stick with me over the next few weeks!
Using Playcrafts palette builder to choose fabrics!
If anyone is interested in pattern testing a block or one of the patterns I'll be working on over the coming weeks I'd love to hear from you.  In the meantime I have photos from the free motion quilting workshop with Tomomi of Slaney handcraft  to share with you yet and hope to have some finished quilts done and dusted soon too!  Need your advice first on one though - any ideas what colour to use as binding for this Charm Pack Cherry quilt?  Am totally stumped!
Made with Noteworthy and Moda bella naturals charm packs
And because I haven't linked up in a while linking to

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Can you see hedgehogs?

Last weekend was almost entirely a sewing weekend!  We had our branch meeting on the Friday night and on Saturday a workshop playing with layered organza with Arlene Shawcross.
My favourite part of our meetings is the branch show and tell and Loretta and I shared our progress on the reverse applique project we started at the IPS sewing retreat the weekend before.

Loretta used solids on top and batiks on the bottom and to frame my shot cotton version, I went with the blues in the end.  It's quite subtle and I think this is definitely going to be a cushion.  We decided if I quilted it well it would be sturdy enough to survive Wilbur.  Fingers crossed - I'll let you know how I get on!
I showed my Big Bear, Little Bear quilt attempts and explained my design fail with this one with the paws disappearing into the busy fabric.  For some reason quite a few people didn't see bear paws at all, but hedgehogs.  I didn't get it!

 So, I showed my solids version and voila, bear paws but they seemed to like it better upside down!
I hadn't thought of the difference seeing something vertically from afar makes versus seeing something on a bed.  The design is supposed to have the petrol blue colour drape over the bed with the center green on the bottom corner of the bed and the pillows be covered under the blue too!

Having a look the following morning I still couldn't see hedgehogs and it became a running joke on the day of the workshop.  So yesterday I played around with colour and shape and can kind of see them now! What do you think - paws or hedgehogs?
Our workshop involved a piece of art created using organza and blending thread and fabrics to reflect a line or image from a piece of poetry or a story.  We all had fun reading things into the shapes and colours and no, no hedgehogs on Saturday either!
Arlene's piece that she used to demonstrate her method was based on the image of a woman in a red dress lying on the green grass on a bright sunny day!

Mine was meant to be inspired by Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, with the lines "There woods are lovely dark and deep" and " The only other sound's the sweep of easy wind and downy flake".  Trouble was, I don't think I was feeling dark and deep on the beautiful spring day that was in it!
I eventually got to evening sunset through the trees - haven't added a tree yet but there should be one on the right hand side stretching across my sunset!  Arelene told me it was very abstract and to keep the tree simple i.e. don't ruin it now!  She suggested a childlike tree but I'm thinking spooky branches!  We'll see when I get brave enough to come back to it!
This was our show and tell table at the end of the day and it was filled with beautiful colour and texture!
I loved this detail in Louise's piece.  We all swapped organza bits and Louise used some of the selvedge of a piece of yellow I had to make Daffodils and then added some bling!

These are some of the examples of Arlene's work shared with us on the day!

And the other things I found really pretty were the baskets of thread that Arlene had brought to sell.  I am totally drawn to the warm colours and did have a case of thread envy when I saw Tracey's collection shown on the bottom right.  One day, maybe!
Thank you Mid-West branch for a great sewing filled weekend!

Monday 14 March 2016

Wandering Camera - March

It's been workshop after workshop here in my corner of the world and I might be all workshopped out!  I was so wrecked on Saturday after my 3rd and final workshop (more on this later) that instead of pulling out my photos from the past month I spent the evening watching Crufts on Channel 4 (massive dog show!) and so I missed linking up with Soma's Wandering Camera party.  I have been reading along all week and finally got around to pulling some photos together yesterday afternoon!
Last month, I went to Dublin to meet friends from college for lunch.  We had fun wandering around a shop called Deco Bake. Who knew you needed all these things to decorate a cake?  I really liked the cakes on display in the window and the angry birds one that hovered in mid air stuck to the elastic band!  We wandered over to the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin castle to see the Samurai chain mail made from silk strands and metal rings and the Royal Chinese robes on display.  No photos allowed there!
I also got to visit Croke Park - its the big national stadium owned by the Gaelic Athletic Association and our national sports Gaelic Football and Hurling are played there.   Limerick haven't won anything there since the 1920's.  I won a big hamper of chocolate and was told it would be the only win to go back to Limerick in 2016!  It was a very nice hamper and was fun all the same to see how many people take care of the field including those moving the lights to help the grass grow!

Given the week that was in it I thought I'd include the dogs and start with Charly!  Crufts dog show is huge over here and not without controversy.  I love watching the agility and flyball and learning about the dog breeds.  A Jack Russell Terrier took part in the flyball this year and I was yelling for them to win but the Border Collies always seem to make it across the line quickest!
Flyball is a relay race for teams of 4 dogs that run down a track, grab a tennis ball and bring it back - it's great fun.  Charly our Jack Russell loves playing ball and we have a game she and I play on the rare occasion when Wilbur is not sleeping on the sofa.  I throw the ball to her and she bats it back to me with both her front paws. This can go on for quite a while! Every now and again to show me who really owns the ball the she keeps it and rolls all over it!
Wilbur, on the other hand, doesn't really care too much about the ball, though he can usually be found sleeping on the tv remote control.   In the colour photos, I can see how old he is getting (91/2 now!) The front of his face is well grey!  My favourite part of him are his paws!  The breed standard for Basset Hounds has been changed as the Kennel Club in the UK has finally cottoned on to the fact that breeding for looks has made a mess of some dog breeds.  This year a German Shepherd Dog that won best of breed was found to have poor mobility.  Certain breeds have to pass a vet check to progress and the first year it was introduced the Best of Breed Basset failed the vet check.  Now the breed standard says paws large but not massive, wrinkles are ok but should not be excessive and the length of the ears should be to the tip of the nose and not any longer!  Their big droopy eyes are prone to infections and being long bodied and short legged they are not really meant to go up and down stairs!

Yes this is the new sofa - on account of him destroying the old one! And no he's not barred from it -  I managed a total of 2 days keeping him off of it and that was really because mum was staying and made sure he didn't get anywhere near it!  So I missed the linkup but am participating in the spirit of the idea:
Camera And Photography Linky Party

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Squaring the circle!

This past weekend, 13 of us from our branch of the Irish Patchwork Society went up to Termonfeckin, Co. Louth to a place called An Grianan (Irish for sunny place - was true for one of the days at least!).  The IPS have a sewing retreat there every two years and this was my first time going - about 80 people from around the country attended from the 8 branches and there were lots of workshops going on at the same time.  I chose a workshop, by Sandra Montgomery of Sandy's Quilts, called Circling the Square which for some reason the entire weekend I kept calling squaring the circle!

This was our show and tell at the end of the day!  Very colourful and all so very different from each other. 

Sandra's sample quilts were all done in Batiks and out of all of us in the class Louise and I were the only ones using all solids.

This is what we were attempting to achieve, perfect circles using reverse applique to allow a lighter colour through from the background and finished in a satin stitch!

I chose to use some shot cottons I had on hand.  I bought a bundle from Craftsy last year and have pulled some colours for my Technicolor Galaxy and these colours which are not really me at all were left in the bottom of a plastic tub.  The class requirements were a fat quarters each of 4 colours in both light and dark shades.  I managed to find some light and darks of orange, pink, purple and greeny blue and thought why not try something different. 

Sewing the colours together to make a light bottom and a dark top and then pinning them all within an inch of their cotton life, took quite a bit of time and lots of concentration to match the seams properly!
Then it was onto the fun bit, sewing the circles using a homemade gadget made from thumb tacks and cardboard and cutting away the top layer to reveal the brighter bottom layer underneath!

I'm not a big fan of batiks but they really shone through with this design.  I really like the brighter oranges that Frances was working with.

My more subtle project with the shot cottons surprised me with how light they were, as despite all the pins, they moved a bit.  This is as far as I got after a day and a half working on it!

We got our group photo on the steps of An Grianan and then it was off home to finish our various projects on our own.  Thank you ladies for a really fun weekend!

Probably just as well I was finishing this at home, as cutting away all the interfacing and the background fabric was something I was glad to attempt my own, so I could concentrate fully and get it all off without snipping through the top layer!  That would have been disastrous but thankfully taking my time it worked out and I got it all off leaving only about 1/8" seam all around the circles!

I did visit the shops available during the weekend, and bought some YLI variegated thread, in blue to go with my collection.  I struggle to find projects to use them with sometimes but like them in this piece.  I use aurifil 50wt in the bobbin and YLI on top and it helps somehow, to get an even look.

This is where I am now and have to decide on which colours to use as a border.  I'm leaning towards purple but could be tempted by the green/blues!  What do you think?
The project makes a wall hanging but I had intended for it to be a cushion for our new sofa.  The fabrics being so light weight has me second guessing that decision.  G thinks so much work has gone into it now that it would be shame not to enjoy it as a wall hanging.  Anyone else had any experience with Kaffe Fassett shot cottons?  Could it take the wear and tear of a cushion in a house with dogs?

If you ever have the chance to do a workshop with Sandra @ Sandy Quilts don't hesitate.  She was a great teacher and we all had great fun attempting perfect circles! 

Thursday 3 March 2016

Bee Block update!

It had to happen - the popularity of this block on Stash Bee really meant it was going to come up sometime! Last year one of my hive mates was thinking about it and changed her mind.  I breathed a sigh of relief, this year in this month of all month's my hive mate picked the Union Flag.  Without wanting to offend anyone let me try and explain why there may have been a few groans when I saw this months choice of block.

As most of you probably already know I'm from Limerick in the mid-western part of Ireland. The island of Ireland is made of Northern Ireland (6 counties) and Ireland (26 counties).  Not Southern Ireland please!  We had a colleague from South Africa and a few in the office really enjoyed getting people to ask him what part of Australia he was from.  He knew it was a joke but watching him turn red in the head and trying to bite his tongue was regular entertainment in the office.  I get that same emotional reaction and have to try my best to bite my tongue when Ireland is referred to as Southern Ireland.  Usually happens when I'm trying to give my delivery address to some poor customer service person in the UK who tells me they don't deliver to Southern Ireland.  That's nice I think to myself, but I don't live in Cork!    Identity is a funny thing and we are emotional creatures that surprise even ourselves sometimes.

Carla's paper pieced instructions make all of  these little lines so easy to keep straight and crisp!

The relationship the whole island of Ireland has with the Union Flag is complicated.  Helen@Midget Gem Quilts also in Stash Bee, who has made this block twice, lives in Northern Ireland and has written about it here and here.  In the North, there are regular protests about the flying of the Union Flag and its the National Flag.   On our side of the border, some see the Union flag as a symbol of imperialism, colonialism, the destruction of the Irish language - flags are powerful things.  Tomomi who lives in Carlow joked that she would have to go into hiding to make that flag and she's Japanese!  I in turn joked with Helen, saying if it came up, I might have to ask her to make it for me!

This month we have St. Patrick's day our National Day and we are celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 rising.  The rebellion against British rule in Dublin on Easter 1916 is credited as a pivotal event in the road to Ireland's independence.
The Union Flag is made up the flags of St Patrick, St Andrew and St George but is not symmetrical!
There were a number of rebellions but the Easter 1916 rising declared Ireland an independent Republic calling Irish people to her flag which is a tri-colour modeled on the French Flag but in colours Green, White and Orange.  Green to incorporate the old Nationalist flag of a gold harp on a green background, Orange for the Orange order, a protestant group founded in memory of King William of Orange and white to symbolise peace between the two.

In the spirit of that aspiration for peace, much has been done to respect the past and find a way forward.  A really big event was the Queen's visit to Dublin in 2011.  She made a speech with some opening sentences in very well spoken Irish and laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance, (a memorial garden that honours those who died in pursuit of Irish freedom, including those executed for their part in the 1916 rising).  That was a really big gesture.

So if the Queen can take Irish lessons, then I think I can make a Union Flag block, especially in these colours.  When I told G I had to make that block the first words out of his mouth were not in those colours though?  See, it's complicated!  I showed him the finished block and he did admit it looked good.  So this is on it's way to America!  I find that quite funny for some reason too!

My not so complicated bee choice of the Clover and Violet Scrappy Star block in low volume fabrics have been arriving in abundance and they look brilliant!  Thank you Hive#4 and Yvonne who crashed last month and sent me an extra!

I'm loving this one in not so low volume colours and think it will make a brilliant focal point for my quilt!

Finally, the last of the blocks for February included the Murder Mystery QAL over at Whipstich.  This month we got more clues, a possible attempted murder and instructions for the second block!  So far a car park and a waterfall.  This is going to be one interesting quilt!

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