Apart from a day with a DIY quilter, a customer quilt, teaching a free motion quilting class and a day spent on longarm tuition this week, Iconoclast actually got finished!
I sponge painted the reverse with gold fabric paint so the navy fabric looks like lapis-lazuli and checked for loose threads and basting stitches that I may have missed on the last inspection.
It took some time to attach all of the oddly shaped amber beads using impossible-to-see invisible thread.
I took photos of it hanging outside on a quilt stand and it hangs reasonably straight but it will get blocked and checked for fluff again before I finally package it up ready for FOQ. I am going to fold it on the bias to see if that minimises creasing but for now it is rolled up in a sheet under the quilt frame because I don’t have space for it to just hang around.
I made a list of things that I need to catch up on, giving myself strict instructions to get them done at the weekend but I didn’t fancy any of them so I decided to make a very basic “just because” quilt. Nothing challenging, no fancy piecing, just a kind of rail fence.
It turns out that my stash is running low on decent sized pieces of fabric. I ran what I had through the Accuquilt strip cutter then had a rummage, found some white cotton sheeting and dyed a few more lengths. It is amazing how much fabric a quilt requires, especially when some of the strips are only 1” wide. I just wanted to sew something mindless and not-perfect that was not for a competition, class or purpose. It is certainly a relaxing process but needless to say, the “real” jobs are still waiting…
I really could not pretend that it was still May so I had to get on with some actual work in the form of basting a large customer quilt and supervising 6 DIY quilts. This did not leave much time to continue working on Iconoclast which I had hoped would be finished by now.
I made a label and hanging sleeve and tacked them to the quilt using an extra large straight stitch in bright orange thread. This proved to be far more stable than using pins so nothing could slip out of place and end up wonky.
Eventually I decided to check for stray threads and fluff and deal with that. I have a useless fluff removing sticky roller. When I roll it over the quilt the head falls off and it is tricky to remove the fluffy layer of sticky paper to get to a clean piece. I settled on the idea of vacuuming it with a small brush head instead. This is when it dawned on me that there was an issue with the wool wadding. The quilt was covered in woolly fibres, some of which it had picked up on the way, but many more were poking out of the good quality blue dyed top. I know I had the wadding the right way up so this is really annoying. I had issues with EQS wadding a few years back but I put that down to being a bad batch after being told by the company that they had not had any issues when they tested it. It is difficult to get hold of rolls of wool wadding in the UK so I did not have much choice. I hoovered away for 2 hours, picking out fuzzy fibres. This will need to be done again before it is packed up for a show. I did wonder whether a solution might be to spray the whole thing with cheap hairspray!
Another time consuming finishing touch is sewing on chips of amber in the empty diamonds with invisible thread. I could be tempted to add amber beads elsewhere except that even I don’t have that much patience. A big job that I want to do when I next have a full free day will be to sponge the entire navy reverse with gold fabric paint so it looks like lapis lazuli and also just because;)
The Russian quilt was finally released from the quilt frame on Monday and pinned out damp and flat to dry on a fortuitously hot day. This flagged up the first flaw. The chalk grid that had started so accurately clearly went a bit wonky in the end since one of the sides measured a tad longer than the other 3. Hopefully the quilt is so big that it will not be too obvious when it hangs. I entered it for FOQ and so had to make a decision on its title, ICONOCLAST, a pun on Russian Icons and a dictionary definition – “a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition”.
I did not have a full week to continue finishing the quilt since I had to collect Freya from Uni for the summer with a mountain of stuff, including a canoe and a bike. Fortunately members of the canoe club were roped in to lash it to the Landy roof.
I taught in a school for the first time in ages, filling the morning with artwork and “supervising” during their sports day afternoon. They were a very nice bunch of kids so it was not really a chore.
I sewed the flanges and wide binding for Iconoclast and applied them fairly neatly, a miracle considering the size and weight of the quilt. I did not enjoy sewing the 32 feet of binding onto the back by hand and had to re-do one corner because I was having issues with bulk, especially since I had used 2 layers of wadding.
There was an additional remedial action that had to be taken because the stain removal process had caused some of the blue and green dyes to leak into the orange bias strips around the DWR. The solution was to mix fabric paints to and take a tiny brush to cover up the bleed. Applying two coats took almost an entire day, sigh!
My plan to couch on metallic braid did not go smoothly and I unpicked a few successful first attempts. I realised that I would need to stitch around all of the orange bias in order for it to sit flat since it had not actually been quilted. It was very tricky to keep the fine gold braid absolutely in line with the orange strip and I am not entirely happy with it. It looks great from a distance but anyone inspecting it with a magnifying glass might be critical. I may have to add yet more gold stitching to make it look really tidy and I have now reached the point where I cannot wait to be finished, although frustratingly it is now June and I have to crack on with some actual work…
There should be a prize for quilting Stamina – I put in some long days at the quilt frame, sometimes 9+ hours and finally reached the point where I could unload and turn the quilt to tackle the remaining 2 borders on the horizontal.
For some relief from quilting I made some binding/flange samples, the idea being that the edge looks a bit like military ribbons. The skinny ones looked very smart and I will save that method for a future quilt bu I decided that ¼” flanges suit this quilt best with a wide ½” binding.
I finally completed the quilting after a lengthy 159 hours on the frame. The next challenge was removing all of my very boldly applied chalk marks. I had used Sewline, tailor’s chalk wheels, koh-i-noor chalk, General chalk pencils, school chalk, scrubbed lines out, reapplied them and generally scribbled liberally with chalk all over the quilt. I read up on chalk removal and the first suggestion was to wipe gently with dilute spirit vinegar. This did not prove effective so I diluted some Ace stain remover and started scrubbing the entire 8 foot square quilt with a soft toothbrush, thinking how tedious it must be to be an archaeologist.
I kept the quilt on the frame in case I might have to do some stitching repairs but I think the tiny stitching has withstood the abuse. Amazingly, when dry it appears that the chalk disappears into the quilt except that I am feeling paranoid about ghost lines. I have collected an arsenal of other stain removers just in case I find any stubborn spots of chalk later. There is still a lot of work to do before it is finally finished then I will have to make a decision about the quilt’s name so I can make it a label and enter a show.
I was both astonished and delighted to hear that “Domestic” has been juried into the elusive Fine Art Quilt Masters at Festival of Quilts this year. Especially when I consider which of my previous attempts – Celtic Totems, Purdah, Shield Maiden did not make it. I must have got the arty blurb right for a change because I feel that this competition is as much about the concept as the actual quilt. Ridiculous as it may seem, I feel that this endorsement of my work finally allows me to call myself a “proper” Quilt Artist.
I have rediscovered my stove top coffee pot which makes coffee like rocket fuel, just what I have needed to kickstart every day that starts and ends with the Russian DWR quilt. Two days were slightly different. I had a DIY quilt customer in which gave me someone to talk to and I spent another day delivering a large canoe to St. Andrews for Freya that also involved collecting firewood for an end of term beach bonfire.
I have now clocked up 123 hours on the Russian quilt! (I wish I had timed the piecing as well) It was exciting when the wadding left the floor and even better when the central area was completed. I rarely have to think about the quilting pathways now, except when I forget and end up unpicking ridiculously small stitches.
Nell has gone off to Amsterdam on a school trip this week so there will be no school pickups or after school activities so I should really be able to power on if my aching wrist can keep going.
Of course, completing the quilting will not be the end of the job, some of which will have to be done using a domestic machine. I am not looking forward to man-handling such a large quilt when I add gold trim and tackle the binding for which I have some simple but ambitious plans – but that will be at least another week away! It’s a good job I have taken up a new hobby in lino cutting for some light relief;)
People often ask at quilt shows how long it has taken to complete the quilting so I have been keeping tabs on the Russian DWR, averaging 7 hours per day. Let’s just say that progress is slow – even the chalk marking takes forever. I would like to think that I am getting quicker now that I know what I am doing.
To my horror, I discovered that the underneath tension was not brilliant on the tiny ruler work and I will have to come up with a cunning plan to disguise it. Lowering the bobbin tension, increasing the top tension, checking carefully for microscopic fluff and changing to a gold needle designed for stitching through sticky stuff improved matters.
It was nerve-wracking and exciting to finally get to do some free motion stitching on manual in the amber sections. Each large pinched square takes 35 minutes, which is considerably faster than the equivalent area of ruler work. I am not quite on target for reaching halfway by mid May and I have not taken into account the chalk removal, blocking, binding and addition of amber chips and any other extras that spring to mind. Facebook sent me reminders that I have previously panicked over Tartan Tattoo and BzB in previous Mays. At least the longer daylight hours make the days seem longer.
I reached the point where I had spent so long in the workshop that I was hitting repeats of radio programmes so I found a good audio book to keep me going. My deadline is preventing me from getting bored but it is a bit daunting every day working on the same quilt and not rolling it on very often!
I finally got my Landy back after 3 weeks at the garage. It needed a new cross member, exhaust, prop shaft bearing and floor. It was VERY expensive. I was devastated to find steam coming out of the radiator, with water and anti-freeze pouring out of a hose the very next day. Luckily, a new jubilee clip, costing £1.67 fixed that. I will have to get a lot of customer quilts done after the DWR to fill up my piggy bank.
Hopefully by this time next week the bottom end of the Russian DWR quilt will be in sight…
My “Russian” DWR quilt still does not have a name or even an abbreviation although in a way it has tenuous links to Peter the Great, the Peter and Paul fortress, and The Amber Room with an homage to the Robbing Peter to Pay Paul patchwork pattern. My current favourite might be “Iconoclast”, obviously subject to change.
I finally got it loaded and have spent a total 45 hours working on it so far, not even reaching a quarter of the way through yet. To be fair there was a lot of thinking time, redesigning and working out the most efficient quilting path.
I don’t think I have ever done such a lot of intense ruler work where lines must match up exactly. I have had so many doubts about it – is it too big, will I get it finished in a sensible amount of time (hopefully a month), have I chosen the right thread, is my back-tracking accurate, is it fancy enough, how will I bind it, will it measure up against the insanely high quality of other show quilts???
All I know is that it is coming along slowly and I will just have to keep chipping away at the enormous task until it is finished. Then I will have the worry of removing all of the chalk marks from dark fabric!
There has been no slacking this week in my workshop! I quilted the table linen project in straight-ish lines and loved the texture that the rope added. There were a few problem creases that appeared which prompted me to run over them repeatedly with matchstick lines which I can attest was quite boring. There were 2 old stains on the linen which I should have left alone but I decided to peg it out on the washing line and throw a couple of buckets of water over it. When the quilt dried the stains had spread and multiplied and the quilt would not bend enough to go in the washing machine so I decided to soak it in the bath with some stain remover. While it was under water the central doily went completely blue so I fished it out, dripped it back outside, rinsed it with a watering can and hung it to dry on a farm gate.
I left the two horizontal edges unbound to give them a rustic look but I added binding made from a ripped linen pillowcase to the top and bottom then added lengths of clothes line as an embellishment on all 4 sides.
The idea is to project a slideshow of images onto the quilt on the theme of “Domestic”. I want to include old photos of women in domestic service, ladies having afternoon tea, cotton pickers, textile weavers, factory workers, makers and crafters. This is proving difficult since people did not own cameras and take selfies in those days and pictures on the internet are rarely copyright free. I want to include as much detail as I can about the subjects, dates, places and photographers. If any blog readers have any pictures the vaguest bit relevant hidden away in photo albums then I would love to include them. I reckon I need at least 60 which would make a slide per second one minute presentation. It would be great to include audio in this project in the future.
The rest of my week was spent on custom quilting a lovely New York Beauty customer quilt. It was entirely stitch-in-the-ditch and curved longarm ruler work which took a while but I am very pleased with how it turned out.
I was sent photos of Beezlebub hanging at Paducah by Mark Caraher and Donna Hartford. The quilt will now go back to Bonnie in Oklahoma to relax its creases while it waits for its next outing. At least while it’s away I don’t have to store it;)
Next week, apart from customer quilts and my usual malarkey, I must get “Domestic” ready to photograph (which means finding at least one good still antique photo) and mark out the DWR with a chalk grid. It is far easier to mark a quilt before it goes on the frame. I will worry about how to get the marks off later because I suspect that this will be another one that can’t go into the washing machine…
It can be difficult to get work done during school holidays but I do not really need to entertain my kids much these days. Nell and I went to St Andrews to see a magnificent student production of Sweeney Todd because Freya had been the costume designer. She had sourced authentic Victorian outfits and accessories and we were impressed by what a professional job the whole company had done with the show. We did not get home until 1.30 am so did not feel at all guilty about getting up late the next morning!
I managed to complete 2 simple customer quilts (forgot to take photos) and supervised 2 DIY quilts. I was honoured to make a Golden Wedding cushion for a lovely quilter with failing health. She has been a regular customer over my 10 years as a longarm quilter and it was sad to be told that this will probably be her final project.
The DWR is always on my mind and very soon I will have to tackle some serious marking, once I have a clue how I will quilt it. I have made some very rough notes and I think I am probably (well, not definitely) going to give up on the idea of printed Russian women.
It is the time of year to decide whether to have yet another crack at FOQ’s Fine Art Quilt Masters so I decided to try out something that I had filed under “Ideas”. This has taken me down a new rabbit hole The basic quilt top is old table linens but the quilting is something that I have wondered about since seeing an antique Indonesian rug. It was not made with wadding but with strips of rope – a lot of rope! I ordered 5 metres of soft cotton rope online to see how far it would go and was a little surprised to find that some people use it for Bondage! Luckily, my friend, Mo had a big unwanted reel of piping cord, like old-fashioned clothes-line, although thinner than I originally planned.
The question was how would it be put together? It would be a pain to attach it on the longarm as I would have to keep lifting the quilt top to add the next strip. I experimented with trying to sew each strip on with the domestic machine using a zip or piping foot but it was very awkward and kept puckering up underneath.
In the end I decided to use a piece of backing fabric and cotton wadding without the quilt top and sew each strip of rope on with the longarm trying to keep the lines as straight as possible, spaced ½” apart. It took most of 2 days to prepare the piped wadding and used up 500ft of rope!! The backing was not pretty because I stitched right through the rope and it wriggled around a bit. The next part of the process will be to use a new backing, more wadding, then the bumpy wadding, lay the linens on top and hope to feel the channels like Braille and stitch in reasonably straight freehand lines. We will just have to see how that pans out. If it works then I plan to add something extra that is still swirling around in in my head;)
I was in the unusual situation of not having any customer quilts waiting to be done so I decided to push on with what happens in my DWR borders. They have been keeping me awake at night, as I have trying and failing to figure out how to piece them. I guess I could work out the maths eventually but I think I will have to just cheat and wing it with invisible appliqué since I just don’t have acres of border fabric and I have already spent £150 on the materials for the top alone. I made 4 wiggly pieced borders, turned under the edges and will attempt to put the quilt top together next week. Any printing of iconic Russian women can either be added later or abandoned if necessary. I did a test-run with a paper print of Jimi Hendrix using Modge-Podge but it was a messy disaster so the only way forward will be thermofax screens or linocuts.
Since I had some down-time, I took the opportunity to do some practice ruler work on a simple quilt pattern by Iva Steiner that I got from Regina in Germany. I am always telling students to practise while never getting around to it myself. It was a fun project but it made me think that I really should use a much finer thread for back-tracking so I guess I will be placing an order from Madeira for the DWR quilt.
I gave a talk for Thistle Quilters in Edinburgh at the weekend and pulled out some quilts that have not seen the light of day for a while. It is always surprising to rediscover what is stored away in boxes. I did not take the Coracle as it is such a bulky item to cart around but I did take a large Totem and Purdah – and a bicycle that I had sold on Ebay! The audience always enjoys my invitation to rummage through the quilts when I give a talk so they can examine the stitching and actually feel the textures of the more unusual fabrics.
If experimenting paid the bills then I would be unbelievably rich! Let’s just say that I did a lot of thinking and experimenting then feeling guilty for not seeming to be more productive. I think it will be useful – eventually. I spent quite a lot of time on Youtube trying to figure out the best way of printing ghost-like photos onto my DWR’s navy borders. I managed to transfer very faint images using acetate and hand-gel but they disappeared when ironed so that won’t work. I have a couple of other methods to test out before I ditch that idea.
This DWR quilt has led to more angst than I can remember for a while. It’s quite tricky to have a vision but not a pIan – why does this sound familiar?! I finally got the body of it together, not particularly enjoying some Y seams where the squares met. Not being a clever dress-maker, I could not work out how to insert some extra scallops around the edges so I will resort to some painful appliqué involving what seems like 500 miles of bias tape that I have made. I am planning on adding some chains of curved sections in the border somehow so I had to make a trip out to Rainbow Fabrics in Old Meldrum to get some more of the lapis lazuli / malachite blues and greens.
For so-called light relief I finished the tiny Fancy Forest firefly and 2 other mutant versions. There were a couple of times when I picked up the wrong pieces and had to wriggle my way out of a muddle. After that I made a jacket for a syrup tin for no particularly good reason.
I have no customer quilts to do this week so I will try to make good use of my time. I still have a lot to learn about Qmatic and if all else fails and I run out of purposeful activities, I will load an unfinished quilt top and simply do some quilting practice!
I paid attention to the weather forecast and sensibly stocked up on essential groceries before it started snowing. It was very cold and I kept the wood stove stoked all day but it was almost sub-zero out in my workshop. I have seen more snow in my part of the world in past winters but some parts of the UK were badly affected. However, the TV news could hardly have been more sensational if there had been an actual zombie apocalypse. My kids had 3 days off school which they enjoyed, despite the bickering. Bumble was definitely happy to wear her fleecy jumper!
I never feel as though I get much work done during a snow week but luckily the power stayed on and I made good progress on a really jolly seaside quilt which received lots of ruler work and whimsical fillers. I even managed to fit in a straightforward flannel quilt, complete with binding.
When I was not chopping logs and making hot chocolate I worked on the dreaded DWR quilt. Its main issue is that the orange sections are like cardboard. I don’t know why it is freaking me out so much – perhaps the lack of a plan for finishing it with ambitious borders when I originally thought it would just consist of the 9 rings. It is causing me considerable angst! Maybe once the rings are connected I will decide.
I bought a Gocco printer from Ebay on a bit of a whim. I want to make my own thermo-fax screens but can’t find an affordable way of getting my hands on a machine and supplies. I have “researched” extensively online and am tempted to get a tattoo stencil machine and some Riso film but I need to know if it would work first. The Gocco is actually a Japanese toy and I hope to try it out as soon as I have an image that contains carbon ink or has been Xeroxed.
I may have to do some serious bread making next week – I could not resist the free offer of a sack of flour from the supermarket. I can only assume that the in-store bakery must have short use-by dates. Maybe it was a goodwill gesture to make up for the lack of fresh veg, bread, and many other empty shelves caused by an apocalyptic event;)
My week started off with my Bloomin’ 50th Birthday! My kids made a great effort with balloons and flowers and a some very special gifts, including a black Scottie dog lamp which looks like Bumble is sitting on top of a chest of drawers. My two BFFs were away but sent a helium balloon in the post. I am not into parties but hope to plan some kind of special trip later in the year.
Freya ran a taxi service in her Beetle, getting plenty of driving practice clocking up miles by ferrying her siblings around. It was the last week of her long Christmas holiday so for fun we went out for lunch a couple of times and decided to unscrew the filthy glass lampshades in the kitchen and run them through the dishwasher. It was amazing how dazzling the lights were when they were clean so we decided to clean the oven as well. There is plenty of other Spring Cleaning to do but there is no point in doing it all at once:P
I squeezed in 2 customer quilts – a lovely log cabin and a baby quilt with boats. Feeling virtuous, I completed the blasted rivets on the denim word search quilt and discovered that jeans buttons are far easier to attach. The hanging sleeve was sewn on securely and I even sewed the corners of the binding shut. The only job left to do is some mending on the reverse where some of the rivets have caused a little damage.
I decided that I was allowed to spend Saturday afternoon and evening making 8 thistle blocks for the Fancy Forest quilt. I realised that it it is easy to put the stalk in the wrong way around which made the leaves look completely different. After that I made 4 correct blocks and 4 deliberately wrong blocks to make it look like that was what I intended all along.
Before Freya left for the new semester at Uni I discussed ideas with her for my next Big Project. I need to do a bit of experimenting before I launch into it and will actually need to buy some fabric unless I decide to do something completely different. I saw something the other day that I want to figure out which could be interesting…
I worked on the denim word-search quilt for the entire week! Firstly, I had to complete the vertical lines with the Bernina 710 using a walking foot, going cautiously over the ridiculously thick seams. When that hefty job was done I put the quilt back onto the Q24 longarm to stitch around all of the letters.
I decided that each letter should be outlined 3 times with thick cotton thread, freehanded with no rulers and in manual mode which gives me greater control. Once I had found the best speed and tension for the denim I programmed it into the Q24 to remember the next time it was switched on. (The machine wants to run in BSR mode by default but once I clicked the manual button it also remembered that I like to stitch at 350 which is 30% slower than the default manual speed.)
Some letters were faster to outline than others but it still took quite some time – 121 letters x 3 outlines = 363 outlines and quite a few of the letters had insides too.
I was not happy with how some of the seams looked really bulky so I couched over all of the vertical and horizontal seams with a denim-look yarn to help flatten them. By Saturday afternoon I could not listen to anymore political analysis on Radio 4 so I downloaded an audio book instead which seemed to pass the time very well.
I am trying to decide whether it would be a wise decision to wash the finished quilt or not. Some of the denim is from well-worn jeans but some was crispy and new so it could shrink at very different rates. I wonder whether a wash would give it a good scruffy look or just make it look scruffy?
My plan was to highlight a couple of the word-search “answers” with thick yellow thread but that will mean more wrestling with the domestic machine/walking foot so I may drop that notion. The quilt is very large, stiff and heavy – so I could easily talk myself out of that.
However, I am keen to add rivets to all of the block corners so I have ordered some (maybe a hundred or so!) from Ebay, which will all have to be hammered on. Apparently you can get a hand-held rivet gun but I don’t know how often I will actually need to apply rivets to any future quilts. This denim word-search quilt could well be a one-off;)
I hope to get the entire project finished next week. I had intended to apply a facing but the quilt is far too thick to turn and get a neat knife edge so a conventional binding will have to suffice. It will also need blocking, a hanging sleeve in case it is ever exhibited and a label which I plan to make from a jeans pocket. Then I will have to decide what to do with it…
I always find the first week of January a bit of a drag – I feel that I should be zooming around productively yet it is still the Christmas holidays. It would probably be better if I was away from home so the guilt could not set in and I would not have to contend with a fridge full of uneaten cheese.
I did manage to get some boring admin out of the way such as my tax return for the previous year but I was peeved to find that the school teaching that I had done to prop up my quilting business took me over the tax threshold so that was a bit of a nasty sting.
I occupied myself by completing next year’s diary with dates on my phone, 2 paper calendars and a planner so there will be no excuse for being disorganised;)
I received great news that BzB has been accepted into the AQS Lancaster Show but there was a minor panic when I realised how tight the shipping deadlines were following Road to California. Both shows were very helpful at changes to my shipping preferences meaning the quilt will not be going back and forth to Bonnie in Oklahoma for TLC so I hope it does not start to look crumpled!
We had fun at an open-mike night to end the holidays when Freya and Fergus both performed on guitar and piano with a super group of their friends.
I may have met my match with my denim quilt. I had it all ready to longarm in neat lines but the seams were so hopelessly thick that the foot could not get over the bumps. In the end I stitched in the ditch, missing out the worst seams then had to resort to using the Bernina 710 with a walking foot. It is doing a great job but the quilt is really big and heavy so it is an incredibly slow job, with needles dulling quickly. There are a few wrinkles here and there but I hope to disguise those later with some couching and long-arming. I still plan to freehand around the letters with the longarm since there won’t be any lumpy seams to contend with in the centre of the blocks.
As usual, it is a more complicated job than planned and I had hoped to make a start on some sort of Russian inspired project during January. I expect that will also become something I regret. So much for telling myself after every major quilt that the next one will be simpler. Who am I kidding?!