Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Mum's Quilt

It's strange writing about several quilts all in a row, it kind of telescopes the time taken making them in an odd way. Actually it was a bit of a hive of industry at that time: I was making Sophie's and my sister's quilts sort of at the same time, and Mum's 70th Birthday quilt was also in the planning stages, but wasn't needed until a few months later. I've said before that I work best to a deadline and I'm not very speedy. I tend to only manage to sew about three or four hours on a good week, sometimes less and more if I've got a deadline! I get together with my dear friend Liz to sew most weeks and we do enjoy making sense of the world as we sew; so generally due to work and other priorities and one thing and another, it takes me ages to plan, cut, piece, baste, quilt and bind (not to mention getting everything out and putting it all away from the dining room table-mostly!), but I do enjoy the process (except the getting out and putting away part).

I've been a bit unsure about posting this quilt because I was inspired by shamelessly copied it from a quilt called Passage to India in a book by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr called Color Harmony for Quilts but I think that's OK if I acknowledge it and it's not for sale? Yes? Also they've just put out a new pattern very similar to this, if not the same which they released for Quilt Market. It's called Split Decision and if you like Modern Quilt Studio on Facebook you can see it on one of Weeks' 16th May postings. I love their work, they've written several inspirational books, (I also have their Quilts Made Modern) with great design insights and they've also recently brought out a new magazine called Modern Quilts Illustrated, which I have been intending to ring up about, to see if it's prohibitive for me to get shipped to me here in Australia... Have a look at their website. Weeks also writes a blog called Craft Nectar.  They have done a few fabric lines in the past which I've ordered from both NZ and Australia. Most of the fabrics in my sister's quilt were scraps from another quilt which I've yet to blog about, which I made using their fabrics and another of their patterns. So all in all I'm a fan!

This quilt idea caught my eye with it's simple graphic quality and I really wanted to make it for my Mum

I chose two contrasting fabrics, enjoying the opportunity to make the most of a large scale fabric of home dec weight and contrasting it with one of a smaller scale in the colour of the pollen heads on the flowers

I quilted it in a free motion loopy pattern which echoed the loops of the flowers on the mustardy fabric

I had to be careful not to get too big, because it's hard to quilt a smooth curve if it's too large, good practice though! I can't remember how big it is but it was at the limit of my machine's harp space (I think it's called).

Monday, 28 May 2012

Sophie's Vintage Quilt

I'd like to slowly create a record here of quilts I've finished over the years, so I'll take you slowly back in time over the next few posts.

Today's entry is a quilt I made for a friend's 50th birthday. Sophie loves vintage stuff and fabrics are some of her favourite vintage things, so when I came across Retro Age Fabrics online, but based in Melbourne (where she lives), I knew I'd find something that Sophie would like.  Because I was short of time and nervous about cutting up lovely old fabric and making a mess of it, not showing it off to its full potential, I decided to make a whole cloth quilt.

Sophie prefers blues and reds to browns and greys,  so the blue and black leaf floral 1940s dress cotton was perfect. I do like browns and greys and I thought the kona charcoal border set off the leaf print well.

If you look carefully in this picture you can see the tiny waffle texture of the leaf print.

I had some problems with the tension with the quilting- always seems to happen when it really matters for a gift and when there are time constraints... I tried fiddling with the tension, but that always seems to be a slippery slope to worse problems, luckily I'd noted where it was to start with, so I could unpick and get back to square one.  I'd decided to outline quilt around some (not all) of the leaves and I wanted to use a cream on the front, so it wouldn't show against the background and a grey on the back, since my quilting still needs more practice and wasn't going to be perfect, but there was no way I could get the threads to intersect in the middle of the quilt and I had to settle for pinpricks of white showing on the back. :-(  It was fine on the border where I used the same thread front and back to do some straight-line quilting.

I'd love to know if you've ever had this problem and how can I improve it? Perhaps the threads were different brands and that was the problem? Whenever I use the same colour thread front and back it never seems to be a problem, but maybe it just doesn't show as much??

I left the back plain except for an X paper pieced with the tiny remnants of the print and printed a label on to that fabric you can buy to print on.  I can't even remember properly what I did now, but I think I photocopied a piece of the kona charcoal to get the colour and then put the writing in a text box on top of that image and then printed it onto the natural colour cotton fabric. Something like that anyway!

I bound it in a tiny 1950s small circle and dot quilting weight cotton also bought from Retro Age. The dots are truly tiny, but the little touch of red gives a little lift to the edge.

Linking up with a new Link up Something Old Something New!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Bloggers Quilt Festival

Amy's Creative SideI'm going to join the throng at the Bloggers' Quilt Festival. It's all new to me and hopefully I can figure out the linky thing, but it looks like a great  chance to make the most of sharing quilts.

This is the quilt that I made my sister for her 40th birthday last year. I wanted to make her a quilt to relax with, lie on the grass with a book, take on a picnic and such like, but wasn't at all sure what she'd really like. We live in different countries so don't get to spend loads of time together, plus (and probably consequently), we're really not good at picking each other's taste, so I was a bit nervous she wouldn't like it. But I think it worked out OK! It's got a really springlike/summery feel; so it's kind of strange to be posting as we come into autumn/winter here in the Southern Hemisphere.

It's a string quilt inspired by this one and made with the help of this tutorial all found at Ashley's wonderful blog Film in the Fridge ; which I think may have been the very first blog I started following,  a year or two ago when I was just beginning to discover the extent of this internet sewing world!

I'd forgotten that when I took these photos I hadn't finished sewing the binding! Always one of those last minute jobs...

On the back I put four decades (or kisses!) pieced from scraps and you can just make out the quilting from this photo. I decided on a square spiral (yay for the walking foot) working out from the centre of each diamond. I also stitched in the ditch either side of the turquoise central band. It was a bit tricky lining up the Xs nice and straight with the blocks on the front when all the edges were raw and the batting was sticking out. I thought the quilting would end up highlighting the fact if they were out of alignment.

Thanks to Amy for organizing the Quilt Festival. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you've all made.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Linking up to New Blog Meet now I'm doing quilty posts again!

The fabulous Lynne from Lily's Quilts hosts a small blog meet each month and I've been eagerly waiting until I do one of what will be my more usual posts to join. I only did one post before I went off to Cambodia and blogged about that last month; but now it's back to "Normal Life" and I'd love to get some followers who aren't 3 members of my family (much as I love them and REALLY appreciate their loyalty in following my blog)! So I'm looking forward to seeing some other newish blogs and sharing more inspiration.

Lily's Quilts

I've just posted earlier today about a quilt I've recently finished, so let me know what you think?

Gum Tree Quilt finished!

Despite this quilt being so simple it has taken me almost a year from first idea to finished article. 

When I was uploading the photos of the finished quilt the other day I noticed that the date on the original inspiration photos of the gum bark was 31st May last year. I have been making other things in between but still...
Overall as my first real attempt at improvisational work I'm happy enough. I once heard a well known quilt artist speaking at a workshop, can't remember who it was, being even before I really got started with this faffling; but I do remember her saying that the best design advice she'd ever been given was: "if you like something, do it again; and if you don't like something, do it again!" And in terms of refining an idea and a skill, that's got to be good advice.  The other thing I remember was her proudly showing a lot of her work, from her very earliest quilts, which she described as ugly; but what was significant to me was her affection for these as part of her learning and her first attempts at conveying an idea in fabric.  That's encouraging! And an approach to self that I'd like to cultivate. It's easy for me to see all the things I don't like in my work and for that to put me off the enjoyment of the process and the play. Do you think about your process, or wrestle with yourself, or is it only me?!

I like the "back" with its tiny strips of Kona Pomegranate, like the tiny hot pink gum flowers on some species of tree and I think I'd like to try this strip of improvisational piecing amidst the grey again in a different project.

You can see my process was very simple; to cut pieces of fabric a bit bigger than the finished blocks of 19.5 x27 cm (71/2 x 101/2 inches) slash them in to three or four and recombine them

The quilting was decided before I even started, once I'd seen the lovely job Amy did on The Real McCoy. She even has a tutorial of her quilting of this one here; which shows how she manages quilt bulk. Amy's quilting is denser than mine, but the general idea is the same.

I auditioned several binding possibilities but the Kona Espresso won out. That's the darkest brown I used in the top and in real life it's not quite as dark as it looks in these photos. I wanted a skinny binding, so cut it 2" wide and binding this in the traditional way, sewing the doubled over binding on to the front and hand stitching the back, certainly was skinny, a bit of an effort actually- maybe I'll go for 2.5" next time!

So now that's done, I'm working on an HST quilt with scraps and unused colours ( I bought 60 something and only used 20 something) from this quilt, inspired by this one

And also in the pipeline is a simple piece based around this fabulous fabric from the 60s or early 70s 

which was languishing for many years in Mum and Dad's kist where Mum keeps her fabric. I love it and she gave it to me years ago, since when it has been languishing in my fabric storage, but its time has come (the walrus said)...!

So I have gathered it some friends, which are sitting together in an inspirational little pile. 
What do you think? Does it all look too "medium" to you? Any that don't belong? I'd love to read your comments.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Final days in Cambodia

Our last day of temple exploring was our second to last full day in Cambodia. We had bought a three day pass and this was just right. There was still lots to see, so we'll just have to go back; but we finished wanting to go back rather than feeling "templed out"! We decided that our last temple would be Angkor Wat as so many had said it's the ultimate.
We took the bikes again and would heartily recommend this method of transport. First of all we wanted to go back for a closer look at Bayon in the early morning light.  It really is extraordinary


The temple is on three levels, the first two are square at the base and have a total of 1.2 km of carved bas reliefs, showing everyday life and (everyday) battle scenes. It was hard to get good photos but this gives you an idea- 1.2km! Imagine how long that would take! (Even more reliefs than Angkor Wat which clocks in at "only" just under 1km)

It's the faces on the towers of the third level that make it so bizarrely arresting. On the third level wherever you stand you can see at least 12 faces

This was under exposed and looks bad edited but I had to put it in to give you an idea of the scale! I should've tried a Jayavarman VII smile though!

Angkor Wat was our ultimate stop. It's the sheer scale of Angkor Wat which is so incredible. It's hard to get a photo which captures it. I guess that's why people go up in ugly yellow balloons

View from the upper level of the temple back to the 235m wide porch in the distance, twin libraries are in the middle distance
There are walls within walls within walls

View from the East side (the back)

The fact that the entrance is on the West has led scholars to conclude that this was a Hindu funerary temple for Sryavarman II (1112-1152)

A closer view of the back 
The temple is set in vast park like surroundings
Inside are many colonnades with intricately carved lintels and columns

Old steps are amazing for envisaging centuries of people stepping up.

Tourists of all sorts love to explore "the temple that is a city", which is what Angkor Wat means.

We did take a day to relax and look around Siem Reap, take some time by the pool sipping our final mango shakes and catch up with a family from our church who are working in Siem Reap, but our time finished and before we knew it we were on the bus to Phnom Penh and straight on to the airport. Do hope we can go back to Cambodia before too long. Wonderful ancient monuments; terrible recent history; warm, relaxed and friendly people and delicious food make for a remarkably interesting and moving country to visit.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Siem Reap and Angkor Day One and Two

Even though we've been back from Cambodia for 10 days (and it seems much longer) it's still fresh in our minds and I wanted to post about the last stage of our trip. In a way it's hard to know where to start because the temples, which dominated our explorations in this area, are so huge in scale that it's hard to capture with photos and my ineloquent writing.  None the less- here's a taster...

Siem Reap is the town which is the gateway to the Angkor area, which really has to be seen to be grasped. Far more than just an impressive World Heritage site, the construction in this area dominates the region and covers a huge area in square kilometers (haven't done the maths to figure out exactly how much) but did visit Wikipedia to explain that far more than "just" the site of over 1000 temples,
"Angkor had been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with an elaborate system of infrastructure connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) to the well-known temples at its core".

I had seen an animation at the National Museum in Phnom Penh which showed how the area might have looked, complete with busy little people, at the height of the Khmer Empire, of which this area was the seat from the 9th -15th Centuries, and this really helped as we  cycled around the area. It helped me to think that as the Greek or Roman Empire is to Europe, so the Khmer Empire was to Asia in terms of impact.

Initially we were a bit stumped as to how to shape our itinerary as there is so much to see and we didn't want to get "templed out". With the help of The Lonely Planet Encounter guidebook we decided to hire bikes and go at our own pace. We had 4 or 5 days and wanted not to cram in too much, especially since it was around late 30s early 40 deg temps and humid! 

On the first day we hired bikes and cycled out to Angkor Thom, the big walled city north of the enormous temple of Angkor Wat. (We tried not to look at Angkor Wat as we went past, coz we were saving it for later!) We pottered along slowly on our bikes and it took us about 1/2 hr from our hotel in Siem Reap. Our goal today was to get a bit of an overview and to visit a few temples, to give us an idea how to plan our time on the other days. What impressed me to begin with was the parklike country feeling of the setting. There was even shade on our ride out!
The moat surrounding the walled city of Angkor Thom

The gateway was our first real hint of the scale of things here. On either side leading up to the gate are enormous figures: 54 gods on the left and 54 demons on the right engaged in an epic tug of war

The gateway to Angkor Thom



Inside the gateway are several temples, the ruins of the Royal Palace, a couple of terraces for the public viewing of ceremonies and lots of pools and walkways. We got a little taster of the bizarre Bayon

which, as the guide book observed, looks like a glorified pile of rubble from a distance, but actually has an incredible 54 towers, each with 4 gargantuan faces of the self-proclaimed god-king Jayavarman VII. That makes -yes! 216 faces. We planned to come back for a closer look later!

The raised walkway to the temple of Baphuon

After exploring Baphuon we cycled on, past the Terrace of Elephants out through the North gate of Angkor Thom to the large complex of Preah Khan which may have been J VIIs temporary residence while Angkor Thom was being built.

Preah Khan

it has vaulted corridors
Intricate carvings

Some temple aspects

Like Ta Prohm, which we come to later, Preah Khan has been encroached upon by surrounding jungle

Cycling back into Angkor Thom via the North Gate 

We made our way out again via the Victory Gate around to the jungle encroached Ta Prohm (lately of Tomb-Raider movie fame)

And that was enough for Day One! We probably cycled, well pottered, about 30km and it was a great way to see things, just the right pace and even at our leisurely pace there was some apparent wind to cool us a little.

On Day Two we decided to go back in time and visit the earliest group of temples in the area- the Roulos Group, about 13km East of Siem Reap. Roulos was Indravarman I's capital (887-889). Mounted on our trusty steeds once again, we very slowly meandered our way, via a pottery re-creating Khmer art from the Empire;

 to Bakong, the largest of this group.

The 1200 year old steps of Bakong

Looking down from the top of Bakong

Preah Ko has six stone towers in two rows

and has some amazing plasterwork, currently being restored

Two of the temples in this area have active Buddhist monasteries

Lolei is similar to Preah Ko but with four towers set on what used to be an island in a reservoir, now dry.

We sustained ourselves on this hot day with mangoes that we bought along the roadside, 6 of them for 3000 riels or 25c for 2. A delicious energy boost!

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