Monday, December 15, 2014

Australia Flair

It was a combination that fired my imagination in a way I'd never been moved before in my quiltmaking journey: two pristine fat quarter bundles of Emma Jean Jansen's Terra Australis (my favourite fabric range of 2014), the Quick Curve ruler, and the Quiltcon Panasonic  Bias Tape Challenge.

Today I'd like to share with you my second Quiltcon entry, 'Australia Flair', a quilt I hope conveys the sunshine, warmth and celebration that is our Australian summer.

The challenge brief was simple, to create a quilt using appliquéed handmade bias tape as the main design element. 

I started by using my Quick Curve Ruler to cut out plain white quadrants which would be my main shapes.

As a lover of appliqué I've been using Clover Bias Makers for many years, and from my collection I chose the 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch and 1 inch sizes. I pressed open one folded edge of the 1 inch wide bias which was eventually taken up in the seam allowance when I sewed my arcs into blocks

After marking the arcs on my quadrants, I initially used tiny dots of Roseanne's Glue Baste-It to hold my strips in place. However I soon decided I was more comfortable with hand tacking the strips, ready to machine appliqué them using Auriful Invisible thread.

I tried to graduate the shades diagonally across my quilt, from warm to cool, and on the white space in the middle I 'tossed' a multi-coloured streamer. This was meant to be a party quilt, after all.

I used a double-batt, this time Australia's finest Matilda's Own wool/poly on top, combined with Quilter's Dream Poly Request, to ensure a nice thick base for my free motion machine quilting, and a resistance to fold lines in case Australia Flair had to travel.

As you can imagine, a quilt that thick needed LOTS of pins to ensure all those layers didn't move!

Confident that my pinning would hold the layers, I flew in the face of convention (what a rebel I am!) and began by quilting the arc blocks on my Bernina 1230 domestic machine, and using Aurifil Mako 50 threads in white 2024, leaving the central area until last. To be truthful, this was because I hadn't yet decided how I was going to quilt that part.

After all those feathery shapes, in the end I went for simple twin-stitched cross-hatching, to rest the eye but still give plenty of texture.

'Australia Flair' is my first serious competition quilt, so I washed, pegged out and blocked it carefully so it would hang straight, especially necessary with all that bulk. 

Then I auditioned 2 1/4 inch wide strips for the multicolored binding until I decided on this combination that continued the graduated colour story right out to the edges.

Here you can see the binding machined on before I trimmed back the batting and backing to half an inch from the stitching line. I like a well-stuffed binding!

Did you notice those flapping tails on the corner of my quilt in the pic above? My previous attempts at machined mitred binding corners have ended in frustration and tears, but I was determined to master this method which leaves no binding tails to join along an edge. All the joins are within the neatly stitched mitred corners, or at least that's the theory!  

Woohoo! It worked!

I've loved every minute spent making this quilt but, like Happy, my other Quiltcon entry, Australia Flair won't be making the trip to Austin, Texas.

I'm not the only quilter who assumed that, as long as an entry in the Panasonic Bias Tape Challenge met the competition criteria, it stood a reasonable chance of being accepted. 

As well, I had reason to think that Australia Flair was one of a reasonably small pool of entries. A search of the Instagram hashtag #biastapechallenge and #panasonicbiastapechallenge comes up with entries by just six quilters, myself included. Clearly there must have been lots more Bias Tape Challenge quilts not shared on social media.

I was a little sad that it wasn't juried into the Quiltcon exhibition and, having put so much work into the creation of Australia Flair, the dust of disappointment clung to me just a little longer than it did with Happy. 

But I've brushed myself down, pulled on my big-girl panties and accepted that what will be will be.

Come February, though, when so many of my online quilting friends are meeting up in Austin, Texas, sharing photos of the fun on Instagram and getting to see in real life the magnificent quilts that made the cut, I'm sure I'll discover one or two of those pesky little grains still stuck in my shoe, and once again wish that, if I couldnt be at Quiltcon, at least Australia Flair might have gone.

Friday, December 12, 2014


I'm afraid there's been little time for blogging here lately, with my sewing machine whirring late into the night for weeks on end. I've been busy making quilts and trying to put my personal 'word of the year' - COURAGE - into practice by entering a couple of competitions for the very first time.

Today I'd like to show you one of my entries, a quilt I've called 'Happy' because that's just how it makes me feel.

{My photos were taken at different times during the process, in varying light conditions}


I initially entered it in the Quilting Expo at my local Spotlight store, the rules being that it needed to be my own original design and made entirely of fabrics bought from Spotlight.

Basically, I just took a single piece of Spotlight's white homespun, and fused a rainbow of petal shapes to it. Like many quilters, I have a love/hate relationship with Spotlight and their fabrics, but their homespun is one of my favourites. It's so soft and just beautiful to work with, and I always keep many metres in my stash.

I used a double batting for the first time, but rather than use the recommended combination of a wool and a poly batting, I used what was on hand and made a double poly sandwich before appliquéing and quilting the petals in the one process.

Then came the fun part, free motion quilting all that white space!

I might have gone just a little over the top with those feathers!

Finally I bound it in one of my favourite blue prints, an abstract floral that reads as plain, but has enough liveliness to be interesting, if that isn't too contradictory :-)

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the competition. My Spotlight store took down all the signs advertising the Quilting Expo!

 I checked with the store a week before, and again on the day of the advertised event, and on both occasions I was told it was still on, and invited to bring my quilt in for judging.

But there were no other entries :-)

So in the strangest of circumstances, it won! And I won a sewing machine!

Emboldened by my 'win', I summoned up all my courage, took a very, very deep breath and entered Happy in the Modern Quilt Guild Quiltcon competition. This is a juried competition, attracting world wide entries, but nothing ventured....

Of course it was rejected, on the basis of these two photos below from my online entry.

The Quiltcon exhibition judges had clearly given a lot of thought to the sensitive, encouraging wording of their rejection email, but it still took me several hours to come to terms with it. Instagram was alight with excited quilters posting screen shots of their acceptance emails, and pics of beautiful quilts that will hang at Quiltcon next February, and I couldn't help feeling left out of the party.

It wasn't until I learnt that from around 1,350 entries only about 300 had been chosen that I started to feel a little better. 

And then quilters like me, coming to terms with their disappointment, gradually started to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and gather courage to post pics to Instagram of their #rejectedfromquiltcon and #quiltconreject quilts. The trickle soon swelled to a torrent and by the end of the day there was a virtual quilt show of #tunaquilts ('the fish John West rejects', get it?😄)

And these rejected quilts were magnificent!!!!

I have plans for this quilt, and the experience of entering an international competition has taught me a great deal. It's also made me even more determined to become a better quilter.