How do you find time for patchwork?

I am the world’s best procrastinator, always moaning that I don’t have time to stitch,  so I just had to find out how Judy found time to make the “Animal”  print quilt on such short notice. 

I knew she used a system  to give herself  “permission”  to spend time on her patchwork hobby everyday but had never thought a great deal about it until today, when I asked her to explain how it worked.

Judy said:  “I call it the “Cleaning-Sewing Combo“.  I divide my time into two parts – one half hour for sewing and the next half hour for housework, or any other chore that needs to be done. The sewing half hour is always from 1/4 to the hour until 1/4 past the hour and the household half hour is from 1/4 past the hour to 1/4 to the hour”

I asked why she had chosen to split the hour in this way and she replied:

” I am usually working in the one place when I am sewing so I can listen to the news on the radio, on the hour. It helps to keep me informed and up to date with world events.”

We agreed that a half hour spent sewing did not sound like very much time but Judy went on to say:

“This works if you have your projects organised. I sort everthing I need to make the quilt (jumper or embroidery) into it’s own bag and I mean everything … scissors, pin cushion, needles, quick unpick as well as the pattern and fabrics.”

Judy's collection of fabrics & tools sorted into a "fat quarter" bag, ready and waiting for her to start work

I asked how many projects she had sorted in this way:

“Well, I work on 7 projects each week, one for each day. At the start of the day I pull out the project bag for that day and do what ever needs to be done to progress the work … cut pieces, stitch pieces together, press seams, trim blocks etc. It is amazing how much you can get done when you don’t have to waste time searching for tools”

Not every project is machine piecing. Even the hand quilting ones have their own storage container

I was curious as to whether she spent the whole day in this routine:

“Only until the housework tasks that were allocated to that day are complete. As soon as the chores are dealt with the rest of the day is mine for stitching. It simply imposes a routine that means that everything gets dealt with over the week. I sort the household cleaning utensils into a portable basket, in the same way as my patchwork tools.  I don’t want to waste time looking for the the cleaners and cloths, the faster I finish the household chores the more time I have to sew!”

Wow! So how many quilts have you finished since you started using this system?

Judy responded: “An untold number, it can take me several years to finish one quilt but at the same time I may have made, and given away, a whole lot of other quilts. In 1988 I started keeping a record of the projects, just the start & finish dates, and it is interesting to look back through the book at my sewing history

When I had small children,  I would get to the end of the day and feel as if I had done nothing all day even though I knew I had been busy. The record book was a way for me to visually see that I was getting my sewing projects finished.”

A page from Judy's record book. Still a few projects waiting to be finished from 2006 but lots of quilt stamp rewards for the finished projects

Judy finished our interview with this comment:

“Half an hour may not seem like very much time, but even if you only get one block pieced, or one leaf appliqued, you are one step closer to finishing your quilt than you were 30 minutes before”

Now she has got me thinking about how I can organise my sewing projects and I am wondering if other people have a well tested method for getting their projects finished.

I would love to hear how you find time for patchwork.

Finally Finished!

I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The BIG “O” birthday party was only 3 days away and I was ready to quilt. This was one of the biggest quilts I had attempted to quilt since taking a machine quilting class with the wonderful Kim Bradley. I made a sketch of the finished quilt block in order to audition several possible continuous quilting designs. Kim gave me the confidence to know “if you can draw it, you can quilt it”.

Patchwork unit used for quilting design

The quilt top looked  ‘busy’ so I decided to use the Aurifil 50wt thread for quilting. I usually use the Aurifil 28wt because the slightly heavier weight can give the quilting more depth and dimension . However, with all these animal prints on show, the Aurifil 50wt would give me the fine, subtle quilting lines I wanted.

Aurifil’s beautiful black thread in the fine 50wt.

I decided on an “S” shaped quilting design that could be echoed and easily travel from unit to unit in a continuous line which meant fewer starts and stops. Using 50wt on the bobbin also meant fewer stops for bobbin refilling. My bobbin holds heaps of this fine thread!

Fewer refills with Aurifil 50wt on the bobbin

Continuous “S” quilting

The quilting was a breeze and it was time for the binding. I cut a 2 inch binding and after folding the right sides together I attached my walking foot to ensure all the layers fed evenly along the edge.

Sewing on the binding with a walking foot

I like to mitre the corners of by binding as it gives a nice, crisp finish.

Stop stitching 1/4 inch from corner

Fold binding back at 45deg. angle

Bring binding back along edge of quilt keeping fold intact.

Mitred corner created

Continue sewing binding to quilt catching fold at corner

Mitre each corner for a nice finish.

Always remember to add a label to your quilts. I printed a special message and used a light box to carefully trace the lettering with a permanent, fine tipped pigma pen.

A special label for a very special friend

Until next time……..Happy Stitching with Aurifil

Spots (and Stripes) Before My Eyes

I have cut almost 100 animal print units!
I have a design wall I made from lengths of ‘canvas stretching wood’  assembled as a frame.

I used a staple gun to attach the quilt wadding over the frame just as you would a piece of painter’s canvas.

I am sure there are easier ways of making a design wall (please share your methods) but this worked for me.

I began placing the units on the design wall paying close attention to a particular animal print and trying not to repeat it more than 3 times in any row.

First Attempt at balancing the zoo

This was more difficult than I had imagined. I spent hours swapping and changing units around and I even made several new unit combinations.

Can you spot the difference?

I began to think my eyes were playing tricks on me as I kept focusing on one particular fabric so that was the only fabric I could ‘see’ no matter where I moved the units!
I finally located my reducing glass.

A reducing glass is the ‘peep hole’ placed in doors so you can see  your visitor before you open the door.

They reduce the view so I could concentrate on the overall impactof the quilt top instead of JUST the zebra print.

Pleased at Last

I was finally pleased with the arrangement and sewed each row together and then sewed each column together. I could now decide on an appropriate border.

Jaguar print saved for the border

Once the top was complete I chose a backing fabric and layered the quilt ready for pin basting with safety pins.

Wide backing fabric means NO seams to sew

Basting the quilt with pins is the method I use when I finish a quilt with machine quilting. I place a pin through all 3 layers of the quilt approximately a hand width apart.

Basting with safety pins

I am ready to quilt…..

Sewing a Straight Seam…..

Sewing a straight seam was one of the first things I learned to do when I first sat in front of a sewing machine many decades ago.

I began sewing my jelly roll strips together with the setting strip and realized if my mind wandered, so did my needle.

Mental note to self….remember this when driving the car!.

I found instrumental music helpful for my concentration. I tried playing some of my favourite pop music whilst sewing and the more I sang along, the more my sewing suffered.

Again, Mental note to self…..remember this when driving the car!

Most of my recent sewing has been hand stitching or small units pieced on the machine.

This exercise, of long seams the width of a bolt of fabric, was something I had to get used to and by the end of this quilt I will be an expert.

Sewing long straight seams

Once these long units were pressed, I cut them into smaller units. I was hoping I had cut a good variety of fabrics and sewn them in different cominations to add interest to the quilt.

Cutting the strips into units

I played with these units for hours. Once I decided on pleasing combinations I had to re-press the seams, in some cases, so they would face in opposite directions making  seam matching so much easier when stitching.

Organizing units into different combinations

When these are finished I will place them on the design wall….

Quick Quilt for a Friend’s BIG ‘O’ Birthday

I have a wonderful neighbour. I noticed she was making very positive comments about my quilts every time she visited. I have lived in my house for more than a decade, but as my neighbour’s BIG ‘O’ birthday drew closer, she began to stop mid-sentence and pick up a quilt from the sofa or move directly in front of one on the wall and say,” This would look fabulous in animal print fabric!”

I finally took the hint just 3 weeks out from her party.

A Touch of Animal Print

My friend LOVES animal prints. She even has a chair covered in a leopard print in her lounge room. I decided to make a jelly roll quilt and used a pattern from Pam and Nicky Lintott’s book JELLY ROLL QUILTS. This book has some lovely, quick quilt ideas and they have a chart at the back of the book suggesting how many strips to cut from each fabric if you are making your own Jelly Roll.

Making my own Jelly Roll

Once I found a suitable fabric that would frame each unit, I began cutting strips of animal print and I am sure I cut enough strips to make several quilts. Matching the strips in a pleasing combination was not easy as I am not really an animal print person….or I didn’t think I was. Once I had several strips matched I was ready to begin sewing. I used 40wt. thread in the bobbin and on the top. I chose black (#2692) for the bobbin and I used a wonderful golden tan (#4173) that I like to call my dark neutral.

almost ready to sew

Off to the sewing machine……

Vote for Aurifil for hand quilting!

Not everyone realises just how nice it is to hand quilt with the Cotton Mako’ range from Aurifil.

Judy’s hand quilting test sampler using Cotton Mako’ Ne 40 & Cotton Mako’ Ne28

In fact, at the Australian Quilt Convention, Sue from  Miss Sampsons Drapery, one of the Aurifil stockists, asked me about hand quilting with Cotton Mako’ Ne 28.  Sue hosted Jinny Beyer at the convention this year  so she had Cotton Mako’ Ne 28 on her stand for hand piecing, using Jinny’s  method, and was inquiring as to its other uses.  My response was:

Hand quilting, Machine quilting, blanket stitch applique, hand embroidery, bobbin lace making, & machine embroidery to just name a few uses fo Cotton Mako’ Ne 28.

Take note that Sue has now added a Cotton Mako’ Ne 28 stand to the the Ne 40 & 50 stands she already had in the store. This means that you can now find 3 of the Cotton Mako’ thread ranges at Miss Sampson’s Drapery, in Swan Hill, Victoria.

But I digress,   back to hand quilting.  For my seminar at the Quilt Convention,  Judy stitched out a sampler of cross hatching using 3 of the Cotton Mako’ thread weights, Ne 40 (fine), Ne 28 (medium thickness) & Ne 12 (thicker, similar to a perle thread).

Judy used these 3 Cotton Mako’ threads for her hand quilting test sampler

We have previously talked about using the Cotton Mako’ Ne 12 for quilting with the larger utility stitch however, for this exercise,  Judy used her normal small, even quilting style for all three thread weights and even the Ne 12 stitched out beautifully.

Judy commented that all 3 threads slip through the quilt sandwich smoothly without any stress on her hands.

Judy's hand quilting sampler using Cotton Mako' Ne 28 & Cotton Mako' 12

Judy’s hand quilting sampler using Cotton Mako’ Ne 28 & Cotton Mako’ 12

Leave a comment to tell us which Aurifil thread weight you have used for hand quilting.