Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Quilt - my creative process under pressure

Sewwvivor has come and gone for me. What an amazing ride this crazy adventure has been! I knew I would have to write this post eventually and I have sat down several times to do so, only to be easily distracted by something else. But the time has come where I can procrastinate no longer.

I never realised the great emotions that would come with the Sewvivor competition. When I auditioned for the 2014 quilter’s edition, I was hopeful to get in and when I did I was absolutely thrilled! With inflated bravado from getting through the audition, I put everything into the competition.When I got the news that I didn't get through, I will confide that I took it pretty hard. But, instead of wallowing in the disappointment of falling short of not making the top three (which was my goal) I want to use that, turn it into fuel and stoke my ever growing passion for quilting.

When Gemma and I spoke about guest hosting the I Quilt linky party, she asked me to write about Sewvivor, particularly about the design process and how the deadlines and pressure affected my creativity process. I believe it’s important to reflect on this so I can learn and improve for the future.

So, here goes, I hope you find my thoughts interesting and possibly thought provoking.



Usually when I design and create quilts, I know exactly where I want to go. I rarely sit down at my machine without a plan of attack, unless of course, the plan is that there isn’t one. Sometimes I will sketch the idea out in my note book, occasionally I will draw it on the computer where I can quickly and easily make colour and layout changes. Other times it's just the image in my head that I have carefully cultivated. But, once I’m ready to go, I’m ready.

There is no set length of time for how long it will take to design my quilts. Some designs have spent months brewing and bubbling away. Maybe they have been waiting for a missing piece of inspiration to arrive before asking to be made. Other designs have taken minutes and are almost an instinct. I have no control and they command to be made, often that instant.

However long the idea takes, it's there when I’m ready to sew.

I quite like challenges and themes, they provide boundaries for my creativity. I love this Ted Talks video on Embrace the Shake. Phil Hansen says "embracing limitations can drive creativity". This sentence came around and smacked me upside the face when I heard it for the first time.

I find that having endless possibilities can be a mind block for me as there is no way to settle on an idea. I can feel paralysed by choices when it's too open ended. Occasionally I will add my own restrictions just to help rein it in. Sometimes it can be as simple as limiting the colour palette to achieve the balance between limitations and creativity.


My first project, the iceberg, had a false start. I absolutely loved the vintage drawings on newsprint that I found, but I wasn’t sure how I could turn them around into a quilt in time. I kept coming back to them though. You know that feeling when you have a marvellous idea just beyond reach? Yeah, that. I spent days trying to reach it with no luck. Then it came to me in the shower, where most of my bright ideas eventually find me. A newspaper boat.

The very next chance I got, I made up a prototype with some newsprint fabric I happened to have on hand. I felt like I was on to a winner. My grand plan was to put all these paper boats on waves, so I set to work on them. And it failed. It was dull and flat and miserable. I put the project down knowing that it wasn’t right. Humph. With a deadline looming, there is no time to waste trying to flog a dud idea.

I went back to the drawing board and found a previous idea carefully stored in my journal for the right moment. I knew immediately that this was the right direction. I started and never looked back.

The second challenge, the washi bag idea was there. With a little bit of brainstorming with my lovely quilty friend Jules helped me refine the execution. I absolutely love that bag and get so many lovely compliments when I take it out for a walk (side note - pattern coming soon!).

Now, the third challenge was hard. The idea hadn't formed. I flip flopped between so many ideas without landing anywhere. It was excruciatingly frustrating. I spent hours at the local quilt shop wandering around like a little puppy dog. It was awful. I was lost without a clue. Fortunately my lovely quilty friend Jules gave me a generous helping of harden up and kicked me out of the store with some wool scraps and linen.

I set to work cutting hexies out then laying them out in several different ways before deciding on the final version. It felt rushed and unnatural for me. I was too indecisive and it was driving me crazy. Although I love the final quilt, this certainly isn't the way I like to work.


I like to imagine my quilt and let it percolate until I'm ready to bring it to life, at just the right moment.

I'd love to know your thoughts on how you like to bring your quilts to life. Do you take charge and commit? Or constantly change your mind while creating? Maybe it all depends on your mood of the day. It's different for everyone and there really are no right or wrong ways to design, create and make.

I'm linking up with Pretty Bobbins I Quilt Linky Party this week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

WIP Wednesday - guest blog for the little white dove

Hello! I didnt see you there, you've caught me unaware. Now, where do I start? I've been so super busy with Sew-vivor these days, I have hardly thought about anything else! Rachel from the Little White Dove blog asked me to share some other WIPs with you, and I siimply couldn't refuse.

This week the hexie projects have been revealed and voting is open for your three favourite quilty contestants. Please check it out, you won't be disappointed - all of them are completely amazing! Your votes would mean so much to me (mine is called 'falling into place' - #1) and you can place your votes at the Family Ever After blog.

Now, onto the WIPs for this fine Wednesday.

I wanrted to share a WIP I have from the start of the year. I have sewn it into a top, but haven't found the time to quilt it just yet. It was put together as part of a bee through Quilt Club Australia on Facebook. I just adore it! And I love that the blocks have come from all over Australia too. If you like this block, I posted a tutorial back in January on how to make the Mega Orange Peel improv block.
 
Yep. Standard behaviour! Love this outtake more than the proper WIP shot.
 
Did you see the killer cross stitch over at Carrose Creations? 10 years in the making, this cross sticth looks oh so art deco - can't wait to see it all done!
 
 
And how about Anorina's new baby quilt at Samelia's Mum? Love those fabrics - and the pattern reminds me of slanted hexagons - or do I just have them on the brain?

 
 
Lastly, I just love the kids' drawing quilt that is being put together on the Mealy and I blog. They are so cute and a great idea to keep those special drawings forever in a beautiful quilt. Looking forward to seeing it all finished. I know it is going to be such a colourful and cherished quilt.
 
 Well, that's it for me, I must dash. Thanks for having me and don't forget to vote!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sewvivor - falling into place

In some ways it feels like many months  have passed since we started on this crazy ride. There has been so much quilting crammed into the last few weeks and I can't quite believe this little Aussie bird is still in the competition! Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart, for your support.

You can vote for Falling Into Place at the Family Ever After blog here.




The hexagon challenge had my brain absolutely racing with with ideas, yet I kept coming back to using wool. After a trip down to the local quilt shop and an almost meltdown with the possibilities, I found a scrap pack of assorted wools - bingo! I grabbed some yardage of yarn dyed linen which would make a perfect backdrop for all my lovely wools.

The linen reminded me of denim, so I really wanted to quilt it with bright yellow like the old school yellow top stitch that jeans used to have and I added a spool of lovely thick perle 8 thread for hand quilting to my order. 

I laid the hexagons out in a couple of different ways before landing on the right layout. Then I decided that it was far too structured for me and mixed it up - I was never good at perfect!  I love the way the hexagons are falling into place, finding their place -  some behaving and some finding their own way to break free.

My quilt is almost entirely made by hand. The hexies are slip stitched in place with matching wool thread and I have hand quilted the entire thing, including (pause for dramatic effect) the binding! I adore the way this finishing technique looks - I will definitely being doing it again. The texture of the different wools against the linen is divine and the hand quilting has left it feeling so lovely and soft.

I might not be able to feel my fingers from all the late night stitching, but I am so happy with this quilt, which I am going to call 'falling into place'...


Quilt Label

Quilt name: Falling into place
Made for: Sewvivor quilter's edition competition 2014
Finished size: 40 x 48 inches
Fabrics used: Essex yarn dyed linen; Tula Pink Prince Charming (Dandelion); assorted felted wool, wool felt and dress wools from Addicted to Fabric and Sue Spargo. 
Pattern: Original design by Crystal McGann
Tools and templates: Hex n More ruler by Jay Bird Quilts
Quilting details: Hand quilted hexagons in perle 8 thread, including the binding finish.



You can vote for me (and your other favourites) on the Family Ever After blog here.

Voting closes Wednesday September 10, at midnight EST.
Fine print: the competitors are allowed to use patterns. Contestants are allowed to recruit from their blogs, social media, family, and friends. One vote per device is allowed. The public vote counts as 50%. The other 50% of the vote comes from our "tribal council" aka Judges. The Top 3 will be revealed next Monday, September 15 EST.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sewvivor - the washi bag

Top ten! I can hardly believe it. It's been an amazing ride so far, my fellow contestants are so amazing, not only creatively, but their support, friendship and laughs have made this whole thing something so much more than a competition.

You can vote for the washi bag at the Family Ever After blog here!


Sometimes, a design will jump into your head and you know you just have to make it. The washi bag was one of those ideas that I just couldn't shake. No matter how hard I tried, it had hold of me and I had to make it. And I am so very glad I did.

In the absence of a round bag pattern out there on the interwebs, I set to designing my own based on a vintage canteen style bag. Because, you know, that would be too easy! I had to rope in help for the maths part (it was too hard...) 'circumference is the pie of the radius divided by the diameter' zzzzzzz I made Matt do that part! He did a great job deciphering my cryptic instructions. And you know what? They were spot on! Genius that man!

The shape might be simple, but its certainly not boring. It's a unique, yet classic shape, which stands up and makes you take notice!

For this challenge, I knew I had to crack out the big guns, which meant using my carefully stashed washi fabric. Inspired by the washi print, I made the front panel using the improvisational technique slash and insert. I love the dark grey text fabric, it bring another dimension to the background. I quilted the panel in a simple echo pattern, which really makes that washi pop. The other side of the bag features a patchwork design featuring some fabulous prints with a criss-cross design – in pink of course.

A zipper provides access to the main body of the bag and an external pocket keeps your phone handy so you will never miss an instagram opportunity. Finished off with killer hot pink webbing for the strap and you got yourself a statement bag!

Now, every bag’s gotta have some sweet bling, so I added a minty tassel. You want to make one too? Follow my quick and dirty tassel DIY and you can make one (or more) out of your favourite embroidery floss.

Bag Label

Quilt name: The washi bag
Made for: Sewvivor quilter's edition competition 2014 (round 2)
Finished size: 12 x 2.5 inches
Fabrics used: Washi by Rashida Coleman-Hale; assorted scraps from my stash.
Bag supplies used: Fushia webbing by Echino; square bag rings from You Sew Girl.
Pattern: Original design by Crystal McGann
Quilting details: Straight, echoed lines with a walking foot using a Guttermann black cotton thread; straight grid in a criss-cross pattern with a pink Guttermann cotton thread.



Voting details:

You can vote for me (and your other favourites) on the Family Ever After blog here.

Voting closes Wednesday August 27, at midnight EST.
The fine print: competitors are allowed to use patterns. Contestants are allowed to recruit from their blogs, social media, family, and friends. One vote per device is allowed. The public vote counts as 50%. The other 50% of the vote comes from our "tribal council" aka Judges.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

DIY embroidery floss tassels


I love making these tassels. They are so cute and an easy way to add a pop of colour in your world. Wrap one around a necklace, a key chain for your bag or make a few and string them into a garland to decorate your room. The possibilities are endless.


This quick and dirty tutorial will get you on your way to creating your own little bit of bling!

Materials needed:

Embroidery floss
Necklace chain

Instructions:

Step one:

Pick your favourite embroidery floss colour and cut about 30cm from the floss without unraveling it. You can do this by giving one of the ends a gentle tug. If you have the right end, you should be able to easily pull a length out without disturbing the rest of it.

Step two:

Fold the floss in half over your chain, keeping those paper bits on for now.

Step three:

Wrap the 30cm length around the top of the tassel, hiding the end of the thread as you go. When you get to the end, tie a small knot. Thread the end in a needle with a big eye and take the it down the middle of the tassel.

Step four:

Cut the looped ends of the floss (you can even it up if you need to) and slip the paper bits off. 

Girl, you just tied yourself a tassel!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Crafty Chloe - seven years old


Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.

Dr. Suess


Monday, August 11, 2014

Sewvivor - A nautical inspired quilt

I can FINALLY reveal my nautical inspired challenge project; it's been so hard to keep it a secret! You can vote for me on the Family Ever After blog here (please do and I will love you forever).

You can never cross the ocean, unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore

Wise words anon, wise words. And with that, I set sail.

Once the excitement of actually getting into Sewvivor was over, then came the realisation that I would actually have to turn around a quilt in less than two weeks! Like a true sailor, I swore loudly, before diving into my blue scraps. I had so many ideas, but they weren't... quite right. I searched and googled and I pinned and still nothing. Nada. The brain bank was dry. Until I looked back over my sketch book and found this geometric iceberg I drew a little while back.

That was it! Originally it was for a mini (and it still might be), but in true Sewvivor style, I upsized and went for it. To make the iceberg, I first drew up the image in Adobe Illustrator, printed it over several A3 pages and stuck it all back together again before cutting up each section. Once all that had been done, I foundation pieced the sections together, sewed the sections together and appliqu├ęd it on to the background. Phew! I'm not scared of those cray cray Y seams, that's for sure!

I used a shot cotton for the water/background. It is so soft and gives it a subtle texture. I knew exactly what sky fabric I wanted, but had less than a fat 1/4. Poo. But I put a call out if anyone had some and my very own mermaid, Penny Poppleton came to my rescue. So a big shout out and thank you x!

It was feeling a little lonesome out there on the still, dark and icy water so I added a wee paper boat, making it's way around the iceberg. What a perfect texty fabric print to have on hand! You can grab your own here from Polka Dot Tea. I like to think that he has all the time in the world, there is no rush and he is on his own schedule... What adventures will he have on his way? You know the stories will be wild and incredible.

I quilted for what felt like forever! Starting with a wavy,organic straight line quilting all over the background to create some lovely gentle waves. Then some geometric triangles over the iceberg and some swirling stippling for the sky. This is probably the densest quilt I have ever done. Stressful on a timeframe, that's for sure!

Quilt Label

Quilt name: Iceberg
Made for: Sewvivor quilter's edition competition 2014
Finished size: 42 x 70 inches
Fabrics used: Lizzy House Constellations, blue shot cotton (from Spotlight), Newspaper print by Kei and assorted blue and white scraps from my stash.
Pattern: Original design by Crystal McGann
Quilting details: Straight, organic, wavy lines with a walking foot on the water using a Guttermann  navy cotton thread. FMQ with in a triangular design echoing the triangles in the 'berg with a light blue/grey Guttermann thread for the bottom and a cream for the top. Light blue Guttermann thread in a medium sized stippling pattern for the sky.



Voting details:

You can vote for me (and your other favourites) on the Family Ever After blog here.
Voting closes Wednesday August 13, at midnight EST.
FYI, the competitors are allowed to use patterns. Contestants are allowed to recruit from their blogs, social media, family, and friends. One vote per device is allowed. The public vote counts as 50%. The other 50% of the vote comes from our "tribal council" aka Judges. The Top 10 will be revealed next Monday, August 18.

 
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