Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scraps of the Scraps Quilt

I love the moral of the scrap quilt. The idea that no matter how ugly some of the tiny pieces hidden in there, the overall effect is one of beauty. I've needed that reminder lately. In fact, I think I've needed it so much that I really gave this quilt everything I had, in terms of ugly fabric, leftovers, leftovers of the leftovers. I've needed it so much that a few weeks ago, all that ugly fabric sewn and cut and sewn and trimmed down, down, down into teeny, tiny hourglass blocks, that I burst into tears in fear that it might not be true. Maybe I won't like it. And maybe that will say something about us.

Colourful squares that were made into a custom drawstring quilt nearly two Christmases ago, gave leftovers that became a table runner for my mum last Christmas, which gave hundreds of discarded leftover, half-sewn hourglasses. They didn't begin to be enough for this chequerboard quilt. I emptied and sorted and sewed my large, overstuffed, glass jar of scrappy triangles. (EMPTIED! I have used ALL those triangles-from-binding scraps!) And still they weren't enough. And then I took the plunge. That risky, exciting yet terrifying, plunge into my charm square box for all those pieces I'd bought before I knew beautiful fabric (sorry, my taste in fabric) existed. I sewed them together, cut them, sewed them, trimmed them into terribly sad little hourglassess. And then I cried.

And then (evidently), I kept going, sewing these tiny squares together into bigger, and bigger squares, until finally, I knew that everything was right with the world. I backed it in flannel and quilted it on each side of every second diagonal seam. Then I bound it in aqua, which, compared to any other print I auditioned, seemed to make all those tiny hourglasses shine! Maybe the prints that seemed misfits at first, become beautiful when matched with the right environment. Maybe there's a moral in that also?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Rising Balloons Quilt

A quilt commission, a new fabric line, a birthday present. I'm excited about this quilt because it would never have been without the convergence of these three occurrences.
A dear friend of mine asked if I could make her a quilt for a mutual friend and her family. They've been living in Australia for almost a decade, originally from England, and are returning home at the end of the year. I immediately thought of Emma Jean Jansen's recent lines Terra Australis I and II. They are bright and modern, they have a great selection of beautiful and fun basics (kangaroos!), and it's distinctly Australian without looking like a cheap souvenir shop or retro tea-towels.
Our friends have been living in Canowindra, home of an annual Hot Air Balloon festival, so Jewels asked, if possible, for hot air balloons, but ultimately trusted me with the design.

Soon afterwards, my amazing Tim gave me an Accuquilt Go fabric cutter for my birthday! He actually walked into my local quilt shop, bought it, and a hexie die to go with it, and arranged for it to be delivered because he was on his bicycle! I asked my mum if she'd buy the large Drunkard's Path die for my birthday to go with it. I'd avoided curves so far in my quilting. I'd sewn in plenty of sleeves in my time, so I knew I could do it, it was just the cutting that kept me away. With my fat quarter bundles of both lines in hand, I cut a 9" strip from each prints that I wanted to use (all the basics plus a few extras). Cutting 6 layers at a time with the Go cutter, I had the entire quilt cut in about 45 minutes!

I arranged the quilt in overlapping circles, hoping that it would look a little like hot air balloons rising up en masse. I free motion quilted around the circles in a swirly design, to represent the wind. This mix of colour, design, and quilting is so different to what I usually make and I love it! I found the whole process really satisfying and inspiring. The biggest challenge? Trying to get photos on our weekend in the country in full sun with a strong breeze! Thank goodness this old brick shed we found. Not quite the wheat field pictures I had in mind, but lovely (and protected!) just the same.

In the centre of the circles, I almost quilted lines that would look like hot air balloons, but I was too afraid they'd just look like basketballs! So I went with this simple flower so that the circles would still POP! but would have a special feature to draw the eye.
I backed the quilt with a couple of the feature prints from the lines, mixed with other prints from my stash.

Usually custom orders make me feel limited, more like a manufacturer, rather than an artist, and I've really enjoyed the break I've given myself this year to make for friends and ideas. I haven't missed the constant evaluation of time and price, which usually led to less experimentation and a safer mix of colour. In this instance, I offered my work for free, which enabled me to play, without worrying about keeping my hourly rate above sweat-shop level.
For me it throws into question what I want my sewing to be for me (a successful business? A means of creative expression and sanity in the baby years? A hobby that pays for itself?) but I'm enjoying the things I'm learning, both personally and creatively, while I let the question float a while...