Sunday, 30 January 2011

Monochromatic Sampler: Block Two Tutorial

Ideally it would have been great for this block to have been the size of an actual Chess Board, But that would have either made the patches too fiddly or the blocks too big.

Preparing the strips

Take two 2 1/2 inch strips of fabric, black and white, and then cut them down the middle to make two 1 1/4 inch strips. Alternatively you can of course use scraps to make this block from all your other blocks at the end of the quilt.

Press and splice

Sew the two strips together, press and then cut in half and then sew together again, until you have eight alternating fabric strips sewn together. Remember to press, measure and trim if needed inbetween sewing each time to make sure that you get the size of your strips accurate. Each strip should be 3/4 inch thickness. I ended up pressing the seams towards the black rather than flat. It gives the black patching a raised look.

Pin and sew

Once you have a strip of eight together, slice them so that you have rows of 1 1/4 inch strips. I tend to pin from the centre of the row outwards. If there is a lot of difference in the seams, then try another piece. I only had to unpick two of my rows to make them line up.

Once you have your chess board constructed, make sure that the last row is 1 inch thick all around with your ruler.

Sashing the block

Once finished, sash the block in one 2 1/2 inch strip. the block itself might be a little larger than your first one, but don't trim just yet. Wait until we have all our blocks done first before we trim down.

An alternative way of construction might be to use Oh Franssons! Quick-piece tiny squares method of using interfacing to construct the chess board.

Are you joining in? Get your Monochromatic Sampler icon here and join upto the Flickr group and post your blocks.

Now I am off to clean my iron!

Friday, 28 January 2011

When was the last time you did this?

Completely engrosed yourself in a task

Finding yourself lost in the moment

Without care for who was watching

Feeding a guilty pleasure

Finding that true moment of bliss

When was the last time you did this?

Thursday, 27 January 2011

My creative space ...

I wanted to do an uplifting post using this image (below), which show the blocks I have finished so far for my Monochromatic Sampler Quilt. As you can see I have changed my design a little and the blocks are starting to take shape quite nicely. As I complete blocks I pin them to my bookcase so I can see them all together.

But the reality is that I have spent the last two days on these (below), having discovered that I had not one but two infected teeth in my mouth which resulted in a marathon 1 1/2 hours of dental surgery today to remove the infection and plug them back up again.

The pain was so intense that I ended up at the Royal Women's last night for three hours for pain relief (morphine) and they monitored the baby to make sure that there was no side effects from what they gave me. I managed to get into my dentist today and hopefully in a few days time the swelling will have gone down and I can enjoy the last few days or week of my pregnancy!

I think that a double root canal should be on every new Mum's "to do" list as they are approaching the 39 week mark .. don't you?

Take a look at some other creative spaces over at Kootoyoo's blog.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Monochromatic Sampler Flickr Group

If you are following along with the Monochromatic Sampler, I have set up a flickr group where you can share pictures and discuss things to do with the Sampler.

I've made a dodgy logo to go along with the Sampler as well (clear to see that I don't have good photoshop skills).

The process goes like this (for blogger blogs):
  1. Log into your blog.
  2. Go to the Layout tab.
  3. Click on Add Gadget, choose Text.
  4. From the dialog box you should see a list of gadgets that are classed as Basic. Choose Text by clicking on the plus [+] sign.
  5. Click on Edit HTML and then paste in the Monochromatic Sampler code above.
  6. Save and voila! You now have an icon on your blog that tells people you are a part of the group! Click on the icon to test it and it should take you to the Flickr group.
Don't forget to let us know if you are joining in on the Sampler fun by leaving a comment. Feel free to join along for one or two blocks or the whole quilt, but remember to post your block images to the flickr group.

The blocks don't have to be black and white, this is just the colour scheme that I have chosen to adopt because of the new baby.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Monochromatic Sampler: Block One Tutorial

I started doing the blocks for my Monochromatic Sampler on Saturday and since then have unpicked and re-sewn them. Why? I bought myself a 1/4 inch seam foot for my machine and I have decided that I don't like it. I would much rather use the regular foot, my masking tape seam allowance and press and trim to make sure that I get the fabric widths right. It does mean that I end up with lots of off cuts. But my daughter and her craft table doesn't seem to mind!

I guess I started with a simple block. For this one I cut two strips of 1 1/4 inch width sashes from your fabric. Or one 2 1/2 inch sash in half from a Jelly Roll.

First Row

For this block I started in the centre and I worked out. Cut two strips of 1 1/4 inch width pieces of fabric with your rotary cutter and rather than cut each section exactly, sew and trim.

Second Row

Once your first row is completed, press and trim and continue on with the sewing. Because this block is quite fiddly, rather than double back at the end of each row, reduce the stitch length. I use a little scrap of fabric at the end of each row that I sew onto after I have finished my stitching to hold the thread and reduce thread waste.

Third Row

It is important inbetween each row to square up your sides and make sure that your block has right angles.

Fourth Row

I decided that I would press my seams into the black areas of these blocks rather than press them open. Why? Given that I am dealing with so much white, it just looked neater and it makes the black sections look raised. I haven't decided what type of quilting to do just yet.

Fifth and final row

The last row is in 2 1/2 inch sashes. I fear that when I have all the blocks done, I will then trim this down, but until I know the exact sizes of my blocks this is what I am running with.

Finished width for my block was 10 3/4 inches which I might trim down to 10 1/4 once all the other blocks are done for the wall hanging.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Monochromatic Sampler

I've been kicking around a few ideas for a quick quilt project for the new baby. I remember reading all about infant eye developement when we had Victoria and how when babies are born they cannot see in colours, only black and white. As their eyes develop, they can see grey and then depth perception develops.

Using the following site as inspiration, it seems like an ideal opportunity to do a touch of quilting with some techniques that I haven't used before, such as creating a pin wheel. There is only one block that is appliqued, which is the stars. Every other block is using patchwork techniques, hence the idea of calling it a sampler.

Given that I am not a "deer and bunnies" quilter, a monochromatic quilted wall hanging beside the cot seems like a good idea to me. I haven't quite got my head around how I might join these pieces, but I might start making the blocks and see where it leads me.

I have two weeks to finish this project!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

My creative space ...

I've been struggling with trying to get my creative space cleaned up for this Saturday. I have a few quilting friends coming over for a day of frivolity, sewing and Colin Firth. I might have to enlist my hubby tonight for one last "push" so that I can get that floor cleaned and the cutting desk cleared.

One thing that I have move past, is wanting for everything to be perfectly organised the first time. So I told myself, so long as the material is folded and stacked, it is good enough. The next "round" of tidying will be in similar colour collections and similar sizes. The fat quarters seem to be under control, but the yardage needs a good going over and serious organisational thought.

The days are ticking by and I am 20 days outbound from my due date and boy does it feel like it. I had all these dreams for what I wanted to sew when I stopped work, but I seem to be quite sore on the front of my belly (placenta at the back this time), which means that sitting at the sewing machine is not as enjoyable as it was last time I was 8 months pregnant.

For more creative spaces, click onto Kootoyoo to see who else is playing this week.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Re-covering a lamp Tutorial Part 1

For a while now I have been looking for a lamp for my daughters room. Something that fits in with the robot themed wall and paintbox quilt (yet to be finished). I thought that given that it was Christmas time, that there would be plenty to choose from in the shops. But the choices were limited and the prices ridiculous.

When I saw this lamp at Kmart, I knew that it was crying out for a "hack". The lamp is a 38cm Lotus Lamp, which cost me $11 AUD, bulbs were aout $2.

First thing that I did was trace the shape of the lamp. Laying it down and tracing and rolling it along some paper to give me the basic shape of the lamp. Allowing some space at the top and bottom to fold the fabric around the lamp. My measurements are not exact, drawn free-form.

Then we cut out the fabric for the lamp. Giving it a nice steam press and running a small 2cm strip of interfacing along the side that would be folded under to give it a bit of structure and strength. I chose not to interface the whole lot as I thought that the heat from the lamp might play havoc with it. I got the fabric from GJ's in East Brunswick. If you bought a fat quarter, it would cover this lamp shade.

Once we had cut the fabric, we sprayed it with low-tack quilters spray so that we could re-position it on the lamp face until there were no bubbles. Sewing pegs came in handy at this point.

I used adhesive glue to turn the top and bottom allowances into the lamp then held in place with pegs. The plan now is to use a hot glue gun to secure and some white bias binding to cover the raw edges of the fabric inside the lamp, however, my hot glue gun decided to kick the bucket :-(

So there will be an emergency trip to Spotlight tomorrow (dangerous I know) so that I can glue up and finish the lamp. Then I might make nice matching patchwork placemat to sit the lamp on for her bedside table.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Tidy the Sewing Room

I've got 25 days to go on my gestational adventure and although I have a pile of sewing to do, the deal is that I don't do it until I have my sewing room tidy.

So I have been busy folding, sorting, ironing and labeling things in my sewing room to make it more functional again. Not so easy when you are 8+ months pregnant. I'm doing it a bit at a time, a CD at a time. Then I sit down rest, and get back up again for another CD worth of cleaning.

via Martha

I'm never going to have a Martha Stewart craft room with co-ordinated bookcases in white and avocado. The bookcases I use are reclaimed from another room when it was decorated. I've sorted my fabric into fat quarters, metres and if the fabric is too large, it is in a plastic tub under my sewing desk. There is method to my madness I am sure.

Once finished I have a few things I'd like to make before the baby is due. Added to the list today are some of the lovely items in this months Australian Homespun, as blogged by Bloom.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Queensland Floods

Australia is currently paralised by the natural disaster that is occuring in Queensland. With 75% of the state affected by the flash flooding, our attentions and love go towards those people who have lost everything and in some cases everyone. The images on the news are horrific and this couldn't happen at a worse time as Queensland is often the national holiday destination throughout January.

There are lots of initiatives that are popping up online to raise money in one form or another. If you do donate to a "flood auction" or similar initiative, ask for a copy of the receipt of donation. Make it Perfect are just one blog who is spearheading the online auctions held by handmade artists who have donated their stock towards raising money for flood effected people.


If you want to donate directly, the Queensland government has a site that lists all the donation methods.

It is worthwhile being mindful, that even though this event is horrific, most of the people in Queensland with the support of the nation will reclaim their houses, jobs and will get the best medical care that a first world can offer. Where as the 20 million people affected in Pakistan by the floods that happened in 2010 are still suffering from water born diseases, living in poverty and suffering from malnutrition.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Mucking around with friends

Summer is a time to muck around with friends ...

Wrestling in front of the TV ...

Hanging out in your jimmy jams ...

Fresh from a bath ...

With a tummy full of jumping beans!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Camera Club February

A few years back we joined the Eastern Suburbs Photographic Society along with a bunch of arty friends. I was on maternity leave and once a month it was an escape on a Wednesday night to have dinner wtih friends and inbetween it was a creative focus for me.

Andreas and I are joining again this year. We get the most out of our DSLR and there is the challenge in pushing yourself creatively. When you take pictures for competition, you tend to take them differently and frame them differently.

The first topic for the year in February is "Your place" so I have been taking pictures around my house. I still haven't finished manipulating the images yet, but Andreas pointed out something funny about one of my images of our humble ceiling fan.

If you zoom in on the image of the ceiling fan in our back room you can see in the centre of the image there is a small snap shot of our back room.

I need to give the fan a good clean and shine, and then try again!

If you look closely you can see me standing there with the camera looking up and how untidy our back room is at the moment. I might take this one again with a tripod and zoom lense, as I think that this idea could actually work!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

City Quilts

Whilst I don't have sewing resolution list for 2011, I do have lots of ideas kicking around the place. Last week I received in the mail the copy of City Quilts by Cherri House that I won through Craft Gossip just before Christmas. I never win anything online, so I was really pleased when a friend emailed me to say that they had seen my name in lights as the winner!

If you know me, you will know that I am not much of a big pattern person. I tend not to have many patterns in my wardrobe (and lets not talk about my button phobia). Those patterns that I do wear, tend to have a connection to who I am. Needlesss to say, it didn't take me long to post-it note the City Quilts and start day dreaming about new projects.

What I love about the City Quilts book is that simple block colours are made into beautifully architectually inspired quilts. Along with a good range of quilt patterns there are also some interesting pages on designing quilts and tips and hints on finishing your quilt.

There are some lovely symetrical quilts but my favourite is the "City Shops" Barcode Quilt, and I know who I am going to make it for ... I can imagine actually quilting the barcode that was the inspiration into the back of the quilt as a point of interest.

This "City Play" quilt is quite lovely and I can see using patterns in the middle of each of these blocks for a nice slick i-spy quilt. After flipping through this book I am almost inspired to spend a day in lovely Melbourne photographing buildings to make my own Melbourne inspired City Quilt.

Check out Cherri Houses' blog, it tracks her journey from maker to designer and finally publisher. Also keep an eye on the Craft Gossip web site, especially their giveways section (where you can both enter and also submit your own craft give aways).

If you want to purchase a copy of this book, support the Australian book industry and buy online from an Australian bookstore Fishpond or Boomerang Books.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Get Well Kita

My first sewing project for the year was a little first aid pouch for a friend of the family who ended up in Emergency on Boxing Day with a burst appendix.

Get Well Kita

Tori coloured in the card and composed an underwater scene on the inside of the card with stickers.

Front of First Aid Pouch

Where as I was sent to the sewing machine to make something timely. A little pouch for her to keep her bandaids in just incase she gets a sore stomach again ..

Back of first Aid Pouch

Inside and the back of the pouch was in Gingham.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

We are the consumers, we have a voice

I don’t often write opinion pieces on this blog, not because I don’t have them, but because often I like to keep this space a neutral ground for my readers. Even as I press "publish post" I feel a bit nervous that I am putting my opinions out there in the blogosphere for people to read and criticise.

But there is one issue that is starting to make my blood boil. Larger Australian retailers who are calling for a GST tax to be imposed on internet purchases. See The Age articles here and here. The crux of it is that any items below $1,000 purchased online and overseas are not being hit with GST payments on their way into Australia. The bricks and mortar "large" retailers are crying foul saying that they want a "level playing field".

For many years these large retailers have made ridiculous profits on fully priced items bought through their stores. Over the decades these same larger retailers who are talking about level playing fields have turned away from Australian Manufacturers in favour of cheap asian imports often seeing quality brands replaced with cheaper products.

Every year in Australia there are the Stocktake "sales” where these larger retailers flood the market space with inferior cut price products in the name of a quick sale (I know, I worked in one for several years and 400% markup was not unusual). These larger retailers have taught and trained the public to wait for “the sales” and now when the going is a bit tough for some of them, they are crying for a supposed level playing field. These are the same larger retailers that have made their profits from undercutting smaller "main street" retail businesses.

So let’s take a look at some of the actual "larger retailers" that are complaining:

Harvey Norman. This retailer is well known for selling electronic goods, at a cheap price. Most people who shop at Harvey Norman do so when they have a sale and when they have “interest free” promotions. This store has taught and trained the public to wait for the cut price sales and interest free promotions that lock people into purchasing things that they can’t financially afford. Customer service is non-existent within their warehouse environment, the only reason people put up with the lack of customer service is because the goods are cheap or on interest free. Gerry Harvey, the owner has been very outspoken about this issue.

Myer. Once the bastion of customer service, is now a bit of joke. I went to Myer Northland Menswear to purchase a robe for my husband for Christmas. The service attendant there didn’t even bother to smile to me and when the register that I was standing at wasn’t working, he dragged the robe along the floor to the next register where he then took my money, rolled up the robe and threw it into a bag with the receipt. If I had purchased this online, it probably would have come nicely folded and pressed, with a nice “thank-you” card. Needless to say, I didn’t do any of my remaining Christmas shopping in Myer and probably won’t shop there again. During my University years I worked at Myer as a sales attendant and watched it disintegrate into the soulless retail experience it is now.

David Jones. I am surprised that David Jones is on this list. I always find the shopping experience in David Jones enjoyable and fruitful. Customer service and products at David Jones are always top notch and I am always happy to pay full price if I know I am going to be treated respectfully. I suspect David Jones have added themselves to the list because Myer is on the list.

Target. Target is the sort of store that advertises value and you really can’t go past Target for good value clothing and products. Target doesn’t really do “customer service” like the big department stores, except at the cash register and returns desk. The registers at most of their stores have been converted to a “cattle like” check out experience where customers line up for 5-10 minutes before being served. You know what retail environment you are walking into when you walk into a Target or Kmart.

Borders. I think that the worst thing that Borders could have done was integrate Gloria Jeans into their stores. I will not buy books that are dog-eared or have coffee spilt on them. If I can’t find the book anywhere except Borders, and they are asking full price for something that is damaged I still won’t buy it. But I like the tactile book buying experience and the layout of their new stores with accessories that support the book buying experience is inviting and engaging. They have taken a look at what their point of difference is and they are working on it. We spent a lot of money on books in our household, and it tends to be at Borders or Readings.

Our family spends a lot of money on products from local stores in Melbourne that provide stock that is unusual, different and they deliver a point of difference; great customer service, great layout, shop assistants that remember names and engage us in conversations. We are happy to pay premium prices for products of a high quality if we are treated as a premium customer that is valued. Retail stores that are struggling can’t just blame online shoppers for their woes. Watch a few episodes of “Mary Queen of Shops” and you will realise that customers want more than just the product, they want to be engaged in the experience and the retailers have to "train the shopper" to want this the same way that they have "trained the shopper" to wait for their stocktake sales.

As a patchworker, I buy fabric online. Sometimes the price difference between local and online is considerable. But I also make a point to buy from our local patchwork shops, especially those ones that make an effort to know me and engage me as a customer. The better "bricks and mortar" shops offer demonstrations, VIP nights and support craft groups in a way that online retailers just can't.

I would encourage all of you who feel passionately about this issue, to seek out the customer feedback forms on the "big retailers" web sites and tell them why you would rather purchase online than in their stores (if that is the case of course). Say it loud, blog about it and then send them the link. And tell Bill Shorten what your opinions are as well. The "larger retailers" are going to be spending big on advertising in all media's about this issue, our voices have to be heard.

We are the consumers, we have a voice.

5 week count down

Today marks the 5 week count down until I am officially due with baby Number 2. We have no idea what gender we are having, nor do we really care!

But realistically, it is probably 6 weeks away given that Victoria was 10 days over cooked.

The "to-do" list is growing with things that have to be sorted and organised. When I had Victoria I didn't really "nest" as such. With this one I have bit more calendar time to organise myself, but I also have a demanding three year old to contend with.

I also have two girlfriends due within a month of me, Emily (above) is due any week now and Kaths is due a week or two after me. So if I am going to make any handmade gifts for each of them, I need to do it now!