Wednesday, 15 February 2017

FAL 2017: Meet the Host #2

This month FAL is introducing you to our host Jess from Elven Garden Quilts.  Many of you will have come across Jess in one way or another.  I first came across her blog and her brilliant posts when she was co-hosting the Decipher Your Quilt series with Leanne and it's been lovely to read lots more about her here in her introductory post. Enjoy!

Hi, I'm Jess, otherwise known as Elven Garden Quilts. This is my second year as a FAL host, and although I'm not great at actually participating in the FAL (I have a pretty bad history of not finishing anything on my list!), it's great to be back to cheer you all along for a second year. I thought this was going to be a really hard post to write - but once I got started it was surprisingly easy. So I've inserted photos of some of my favorite quilts in amongst the text - feel free to skim the words if you'd rather just look at quilts ;o).

I'm a 36 year old mum of three not-so-small people - my eldest son (12 year old) started high school this year (grade 7), and I have a 9 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. Needless to say, moments of sewing have been few and far between over the last few months while they've had their summer holidays - but they went back to school last week, so there is some semblance of normality in our household again :o). I have an incredible partner too, who encourages me in all my quilty endeavours and listens patiently when I ramble on about my current projects. We also have two fur babies - Shadow and Pepper, our little quilt-cats, who spend at least 90% of their time asleep on various quilts and cushions around the house! I'll often go back to hand stitch binding and find my quilt has been invaded by cats ;o).

We live in Tasmania, Australia - that little island that sits off the southern coast of mainland Australia. It's a beautiful place to live - we don't have a huge population and we are surrounded by some of the most gorgeous wilderness in the world (in my humble opinion!). I grew up in a pretty arty/crafty family - my Dad studied ceramics at Art School and is an art teacher at a college, and my mum has always been involved with some sort of textile art. She made most of our clothes as kids, and is now obsessed with spinning and knitting all kinds of gorgeous yarn. So it's kinda unsurprising that I've grown up to be a maker.

Although I have a science degree (and work as a lab technician part time), I've always enjoyed making stuff. I started cross stitching when I was quite young, and continued that hobby right through to my university years. It wasn't until I had my youngest child that I decided to get a sewing machine - with the intention of making clothes and toys for my kids. I had fun doing this for a while, but then on a whim I bought a beginner's quilting magazine and that was the beginning of a true obsession. For me, quilting is the perfect marriage of maths and art - I love numbers and I love working with colour, so it's not surprising it has overtaken all of my spare time!

I started quilting around 5 or 6 years ago - and back when I started, my tiny sewing room overlooked the garden - so Elven Garden Quilts was born! After a few years, I outgrew that little room, so my 'studio' is now our garage - not the prettiest location, but I can be as messy as I want (and believe me, the term creative chaos fits me perfectly!) and close the door on it so no one else has to be subjected to it ;o).

I first started blogging for a few reasons. Mainly because I didn't actually know anyone who quilted and I didn't want to bore my family and friends to tears constantly talking about my quilts, and blogging was the perfect way to share what I was making. But it quickly became a way to connect with people all over the world who shared my passion. I'm ever in awe of how supportive and wonderful the online quilting community is, and my life would be very different if I hadn't started blogging. I am a self-taught quilter, thanks to the enormous generosity of so many people in sharing tutorials and ideas, and a love of trying to figure out how to make things work!

I loosely call myself a modern quilter - although I've made plenty of quilts that are far more traditional than modern! I think I'm probably best known for my love of free motion quilting - everything I piece is quilted to death on my domestic Bernina. About three years ago, I was actually invited to become a Bernina Ambassador here in Australia, which is an incredible honour :o). I have several free motion quilting tutorials available on my YouTube channel - and I plan on doing a lot more of these this year! I've been teaching patchwork and quilting classes on a weekly basis for the last three years (although I'm currently having a break, after burning out from a pretty hefty teaching load last year), which is something I absolutely love.

Last year was a big year for me as a quilter, both on a professional and personal level. I won several awards for my quilts at some of our national quilt shows (the Australian Modern Quilt Show and the Australian Machine Quilting Festival), and I taught a lot of classes - both patchwork and free motion quitling. On the personal side of things, I feel like I really grew as a quilter. Although I've always loved making quilts and been happy with the finished product, I've struggled to find my style. But in the last half of last year I feel like I started to find my voice, and started making quilts that are more 'me' than ever before. Although I've always used and loved my design wall, I now rely on it constantly as a tool to design my quilts. Aviatrix is one of the last quilts I made using someone else's pattern - and I think it will be the last for a fairly long time. I'm enjoying doing my own thing so much right now!

The last few quilts I've made (and my current work in progress) all started as a vague idea and a giant pile of fabric, and relied on my design wall to figure out what they would become. You can read all about the process I went through when making Scattered (shown below) herehere, here and here. And if you're attending QuiltCon this year, please go say hi to her - she was juried into the show which is enormously exciting!

I recently wrote about the process of making one of my recent finishes, Flow. Again this quilt started as a pile of fabric and a very vague idea (as in, I knew I wanted to use improv curves), but the design came together through trial and error.

Although I'm much better at starting and finishing projects than I used to be (which isn't to say I don't have any WIPs - there are lots of those!), I work best when don't feel like I *have* to work on a particular project. Which is probably why I make FAL lists and then largely ignore them... Having said that, I have several projects that have been ignored for far too long that I do want to finish this year, so next quarter you can expect me to fully participate and knock over some very long term WIPs!

Thanks for letting me introduce myself (and my quilts!), and I look forward to cheering you all on this year as you work through your FAL lists!

xx Jess

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Happy Days BOM - quilt top centre

Three months of a gap since my last update on my Sarah Fielke 'Happy Days' BOM quilt wasn't part of the plan, but I am here today to report what feels like significant progress to me.

I finally stitched the last three of those border wreath blocks, enjoying the mix of low volume fabrics I chose.  After that, there was some late night shuffling of blocks last weekend just to get a better balance of colours across the quilt top.  I didn't move too many around, just made sure that the red wasn't allowed to dominate by congregating in that lower left hand corner.

Once I had the layout settled it was time to tackle step down piecing.  This was my first ever attempt at step down piecing and although it took a wee bit of concentration, I did eventually get a rhythm going and the top came together without the frustration I feared it might.  Sarah's video instruction and BOM notes were very helpful as always.

Of course, it took some time to get all of this stitched together so it was MUCH later than expected when I finished and I did suffer quilter's hangover the next morning!  I would not fear step down piecing again and in fact, welcome it for the variety it allows in a quilt construction other than just straight sewn rows.  One day I shall try it again, like when my WIPs list is much smaller ;-)

I know the late night photography and lighting has killed the beautiful colours in the fabrics of the quilt but trust me, it's very pretty and I am REALLY happy to have completed all of the blocks and the piecing, trying all sorts of new-to-me techniques along the way.  I hope anyone joining Sarah's new BOM for 2017 will enjoy it every bit as much as I have this one.

So now this quilt needs some borders and I am musing what to do.  There are three border options provided by Sarah for the BOM but I am considering doing something different from any of those.  There are a number of reasons for that. 1) I don't want this quilt to grow much bigger for the space I hope to hang it in eventually and Sarah's border options are quite substantial, 2) I need something that won't take forever and a day to do given my current dearth of sewing time and 3) the border options provided don't feel really "me".  Hence, the musing.  I don't want to make a choice that doesn't do justice to the work done so far, so I shall ponder a little more before making my fabric calculations and getting on with it.

I hope it won't take too long, though I do suspect that putting this quilt on my Q1 FAL list has been somewhat optimistic!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Baby Beginnings

One of the new makes I referred to in my 2017 plans post is a quilt for my cousin's expected baby.

I mulled over lots of ideas and fabrics for a few months actually, but my mind kept coming back to scrappy.  (I think I found it hard to get a 'feel' for what my cousin might like, without asking directly, and I'd like it to be a surprise - sort of).  Scrappy wonky stars on a scrappy low volume background sort of forced their way to the forefront of my thoughts and before long I had raided my scraps and stash for fabrics, ready to make a start in the New Year.

I love how wonky stars make up so quickly, though these ones are only made up on the horizontal sections so far the upper and lower points have now yet been stitched in.  There's still a lot of piecing to go, but it's good to have made fair progress already.  Wonky stars never fail to disappoint me, just hope my cousin will feel the same when/if it's ready to gift to her.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Refreshing for Pressing

Grotty and gross are just about the only suitable words to describe my small ironing board cover.  Replacing it to make it look respectable again has been on my (very lengthy) To Do list for some time.  

I've even had the new fabric and wadding layers cut and ready for a while now.

Shame (and having posted it on my Q1 FAL proposed finishes) finally got the better of me and now my little board is all fresh to press on again.

This fabric is a dec weight from Ikea (£4/m) which I thought co-ordinated quite nicely with vintage tea cup patterns on my dresser which it sits next to when in use.

I wonder how long until it looks shameful again? ;-)

So, that's a tick for the first and easiest of my Q1 FAL Proposed Finishes.  Have you got a finish yet?

Friday, 20 January 2017

Cheer Up January Giveaway Winner!

We have a winner folks!

Since entries no 1 -21 were here on the blog, no 33 is an IG follower and the 12th commenter over there.

Congratulations Janine @janithom!!!  I hope this little parcel dropping through your letterbox will cheer up January a little, or maybe February by the time it gets all the way to Australia.  Have fun stitching in 2017!

Thank you everyone for entering.  I really appreciate your interest in my blog and my IG page - and, of course, pretty prizes ;-)

Thursday, 19 January 2017

January Giveaway!

It has been a while since I had a giveaway and, since I have rather fallen out of synch with my blogiversary (it was 6 years in Dec), I have decided to have a little giveaway just to cheer up the very long, grey month of January.  This giveaway is going to be open to Instagram entries as well as entries here on the blog. It's only open today and tomorrow, so don't leave it too late to enter!

I want to share this lovely little Moda tin with one of you lovelies. When it reaches your home you might fill it with any number of lovely stitchy things but I can't send you an empty tin, can I?  So inside, I will include my very favourite brand of seam ripper (love this so much), a spool of Aurifil 2312, a little needle book and magnetic needle minder, and some little emergency chocolates (you can keep them until all the Christmas choccies have disappeared).  I will also send you a Bonnie & Camille Handmade charm pack to get your new year sewing off to a pretty start.  Interested?

To enter, you must be a follower. Leave a comment here telling me how you follow me (Bloglovin', IG etc).  That's all you have to do.

If you are following me both here on the blog and on IG you may have ONE entry on EACH, but any duplicate entries on either will not be considered.  Please include an email address or your IG name if you are a no-reply blogger so that I can contact you for mailing info.  If I cannot contact you, I will have to re-draw and that would be a shame.  When it comes to drawing the winner, I will number the blog entries from 1 onwards and then continue the numbering over on my IG post entries.  Hope that makes sense.

Entries will close at 22:00 GMT on Friday 20 January 2017.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

2017 FAL: Meet the Host #1

This year FAL is going to introduce you to each of the crew of international hosts.  Nicky is kicking us off for 2017 - so, read on!  I am in awe of all that she has done and still does, especially for Siblings Together.  She forgot to mention her fabulous sense of humour and how she's easy company to keep, but I'll let her tell you the rest ....

Hi !  My name is Nicky Eglinton and I'm one of the global 2017 Finish-A-Along hosts.  This is my second year as co-host so I should know what I'm doing.  

I live in the South of England but was born in bonnie Scotland and after a few years studying in Aberdeen and Glasgow, I came to London to get my first job!   I loved the theatres, cinema, restaurants, walking across Waterloo Bridge and looking one way at the Houses of Parliament and the other way at St Paul's.  Life was good!

Houses of Parliament to the left, 

the dome of St. Paul's to the right

Since then I have moved even further south and out of the hubbub of the City to the quiet more rural life of Sussex to raise a family with hubby.   It has suited us well and we have three lovely children and a cat and a dog!   Here are the pets in portrait and 'helping' me quilt!

Saffy and Maddie

In my childhood I learnt to stitch from my mother - first toys, and cross stitch, then clothes in my teens and twenties (back then it was actually cheaper to do that). 

Meet Dandelion - I still have him!

She also taught me knitting and crochet.  She loved passing on her skills though we struggled at times as she was right handed and I was left handed.  Every thing I did looked wrong to her as I was doing it in what seemed an awkward way....and there were very few lefthanded tools to help!  So I now prefer right handed scissors - in fact I cannot use lefthanded ones!!
Jumping forward a bit, to maintain my sanity after kid no 1, I went to an evening class about patchwork and quilting.  My chance to talk with grown ups!   I was completely in love with applique!   It was all I did!  And then I ended up on a course at  The Quilt Room to make this quilt in 2005!  


Friendship's Garden Quilt

by Alma Allen & Cherie Ralston

The applique was easy for me but would you believe I was terrified of the HST border round each block and the quilt remained in pieces, and on several FAL lists.
Carolyn Forster taught me piecing and introduced me to blogging!   Wow has she got a lot to answer for!   I started blogging as I wanted to record my stitching and gardening - hence my blog name Mrs Sew and Sow!

The sewing has taken over somewhat but this year I will be back in my garden and bringing lots of flowers into the house!  Wonder if a flower bed can count as a WIP or UFO??   What do you think?
Well back to that quilt I started in 2005 I kept moving it from one FAL list to the next!  I have joined up with the FAL since the beginning - though I may have missed a few quarters - and it has helped enormously - mainly from all the encouragement I received from commenters who have become friends.  
Suddenly it became the time to finish that quilt!  I even had to learn FMQ in order to do it !   

And here it is!  So all of you who have longterm WIPs/UFOs do not despair!

Finishing that longstanding UFO was like a release - it had been a block hanging over me!   I started actually finishing more stuff.   
Since 2012 I have been keen to meet up with people, and join in the quilting  community.  I went to the Fat Quarterly Retreats in London and learnt about the Siblings Together charity.  I have been making quilts for the charity since then - one or two to begin with, then I joined a bee to make more, helped others finish quilts and finally last year Maria and I were leading the campaign to make 100 quilts for the charity.  

The charity helps children in the UK social care system retain bonds with their siblings at holiday camps.  They are given a quilt to remind them of the fun times together.  

We will be aiming to make another 100 quilts in 2017 with help from a generous community of quilters !   Would you like to join us?  You can find more information here and here!

I love scraps and have been running a monthly link up, #Scraptastictuesday, on the second Tuesday of every month, with my co host Leanne (who also hosts FAL).  We like to celebrate the origins of patchwork, though Leanne uses scraps in more of an improv way than I do but you will find all sorts of inspiration there! 

I am a scrappy quilter for ecological and economical reasons!  I like to hang onto those pounds and pence and keep my scraps out of the landfill sites!    And I just love cramming as many different fabrics as possible into one quilt.  

We would love you to join us with your scrappy projects (they don't need to be finished), plans, and storage systems.

I try to make a scrappy sampler quilt each year with tutorials showing you how to make your own!  2015 is finished and 2016 is basted ready for a finish this quarter I hope!

Liberty Sampler 2015 & Karen Lewis Sampler 2016

And now I'm setting up a local group of stitchers in Sussex with my friends and co-founders Kelly and Jane and we are actually going to meet up and stitch together in a room!   And eat cake!   With no children !  It is starting this month !

I seem to have made lots of quilts.  I find the creative process both stimulating and therapeutic.  I do tend to make up my own patterns though on occasion if I love something I will try to make my own version of it.

Here are some of my favourite quilt finishes

Top Left : Nordik Quilt; Top Right & Clockwise:  Double Sided Welsh Blanket Quilt in Karen Lewis Textiles, pattern by Mary Emmens;  Hand stitched and quilted scrappy clamshell quilt;  Vintage Squares quilt; Stingy Bee Row Quilt  (both this and Nordik were made with help from members of Bee a Brit Stingy )

And here is one I hope to finish this coming quarter!  It is my take on the traditional Double Wedding Ring (my own variation) - a lot of it stitched by hand!  I used acryllic templates made by Marti Michell to help with the cutting and designing of these blocks.

Hoopla! Quilt

 My FAL list is always a long one (yes I am a member of Archie the Wonder Dog's #ridiculouslylongFAList ) as when I used to choose a few items for my list I always wanted to work on something else!  Much easier to keep everything out in the open I found!

I hope you will join us on our journey to complete those listed projects and I look forward to seeing your finishes!  Remember to cheer on the rest of the community - it really does make a difference!

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