Sunday, 12 August 2012

Quilting Heaven - Part 2

Now, back to the story of our wonderful quilting retreat...

The second workshop I undertook was Sue Dennis's Opal Fever workshop. Sue is an amazing Australian designer who uses a range of different techniques and tools to create her fabulous quilts.

Sue talking about how she creates her quilts

The workshop participants had the option of creating either Sue's Opal Fever quilt or her Opal Necklace quilt. I chose the Opal Fever quilt (see below). The Opal Necklace quilt can be seen to the left of the big quilt in the above photo.

Sue's Opal Fever Quilt

We started out by preparing our fabrics that would be used to create the opals. Sue showed us how to use oil sticks and homemade rubbing plates to add 'glinty bits' to our fabric. (Sue was very big on technical terms :P) 

Sue demonstrating how to use oil sticks

Sue recommends using the 'Shiva' brand of oil sticks and the ones we used were iridescent. This is how my first 3 pieces of fabric looked after I added 'glinty bits' and heat set them by ironing between pieces of Glad Bake.

Tracy's fabrics with oil stick markings

We then added Vliesofix, cut out our opal shapes and laid them out on our backing fabric as per the pattern sheet. This is where I got up to at the end of the first day but there were several ladies who had actually attached their opals in preparation for day 2.

The next day Sue showed us how to use quilt basting spray to temporarily hold our quilt top, batting and backing together while stitching. Most of us wore masks during this process, due to the chemical spray, which made for a funny photo. Unfortunately I don't have a good one to show you.

I spent the first half of day 2 placing and securing my opals to my background fabric. This is what it looked like at this point (and still actually looks like now)...

Tracy with quilt top half done

I then had to make a small sample quilt swatch from left over fabric so I could have a go at the stitching technique. However, before I had a go at stitching I also had to create some 'glitzy bits' (more technical terms) with Angelina fibre. These were used to highlight portions of the opals and create some shine.

We used the 'organic shuffle' (again with the technical terms) to secure the opals and Angelina fibre (if added) to the backing fabric. We then used some meandering free motion straight stitch to create the opal 'veins'. I was extremely happy with my sample quilt swatch. This is what it looked like...

My sample quilt swatch

I then took some time to create some further Angelina fibre 'glitzy bits' to take home with me to finish my quilt top off. It was very obvious by this stage that I would not finish the quilt top before the end of the day. I did, however, have about half an hour left and I was determined to at least stitch my main opal shape to the quilt.

Unfortunately my sewing machine had other ideas. My poor old machine had been overworked (it hadn't done that much work in 4 days in the whole 17 years that I've owned it!) and it decided it had had enough. We were using rayon threads for the 'organic shuffle' and during the last 1/2 hour my thread snapped 4 times until I eventually gave up trying. (It has now had a service so I am hoping to get back to my quilt top in the next couple of weeks.)

Sue was also generous enough to show us some additional techniques during the latter part of the workshop. These included using oil sticks with store bought templates as rubbing plates and using Lumiere fabric paints with the same templates. All in all we came away with a 2/3 finished quilt top and a huge range of new knowledge, techniques and experience in our repertoire. It was a fantastic workshop!

If you would like to check out more of Sue's work and travels you can visit her blog here. She also has a picture of all the workshop participants holding up their quilt tops in her post dated 1st August.

Well, that's it for part 2 of my retreat recollections. In part 3 I will show you some of the work Mum did in her workshop with Leesa Chandler. Until then, happy stitching.


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A New Treasure

Today I'm linking in with Melody's Tuesday Treasures at her blog 'The House on the Side of the Hill'.

My treasure is my new favourite tool for quilting - the 'Add-a-Quarter Ruler'. This amazing little ruler makes it incredibly easy to cut even seams when paper piecing!

We were introduced to this little beauty by Carol Doak at the Quilting in the Highlands retreat that we went to recently. It was created by a colleague of hers to allow quilters to easily add a quarter inch seam to patterns, but Carol worked out how to use it for paper piecing. Combined with a straight edged postcard (a little trick Carol showed us) it certainly made our lives easier when piecing together our sections in the workshop.

Happy stitching,

Monday, 6 August 2012

Quilting Heaven - Part 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, Mum and I spent 4 wonderful days at the Berrima Patchwork 'Quilting in the Highlands' Retreat last week. We had an absolute ball! 

After getting back into the swing of our regular lives and recovering a little from the time difference (and exhaustion of 4 intense days of stitching) I have finally found some time to share some of our memories and photos with you.

After a 4:30am start we flew to Sydney on the Friday with our 5 suitcases, 2 handbags and a camera bag (no, we don't travel light!). Both of us had to bring our sewing machines so 2 of the suitcases held these. We were a bit stressed about how they would travel but they travelled just fine (thank goodness). Unfortunately the taxi that was sent for us broke down on the way, so we had to wait an hour for another one. We then had an hour and a half drive to Mittagong RSL and the Springs Motel where we were staying. We arrived very tired but excited.

We had both booked in for 2 x 2 day workshops. The first one we were doing together - Diamond Delight with Carol Doak. Carol is a well-renowned US quilter who specialises in Foundation/Paper Piecing. Berrima Patchwork were extremely lucky to get her on board as a tutor as she is doing very little travelling these days. 

Carol Doak with her sample 'Diamond Delight' quilt.

Carol was a lovely, lovely lady, an absolute character with a fantastic sense of humour! She was an excellent tutor and shared a wealth of knowledge, hints and tips which made us feel that we could take on any paper piecing project and accomplish it with ease. 

Day 2 and hard at it!

Mum and I were pretty much the slowest in the class as we are fairly new to quilting and were complete novices at paper piecing. However, early on the 2nd day we had finally finished our centre blocks. Even though we were novices, Carol's instruction and support had us both completing perfect points!

My centre block

Carol with Mum holding her centre block against Carol's sample

Carol then had a great idea to lay all of the centre blocks created by the group on floor of the workshop room. Amazingly, even though there was a huge range of fabrics involved, you could have easily created a quilt just using the centre blocks, with a bit of tweaking. Carol commented that it just goes to show once you get more than 10 fabrics in a quilt, any colours will go together.

Centre block composite

At the end of day 2, several people had completed their quilt tops. Mum and I had finished placing and stitching all of our 'A' and 'B' sections so that all we need to do now is stitch it all together. We left Carol's workshop having made some lovely new friends and gained a huge amount of inspiration.

Group photo at the end of the workshop

After a lovely dinner at the RSL club we retired to our room to relax, relive the highlights of the workshop and start thinking about the next workshop. We took the opportunity to lay out our centre blocks, 'A' and 'B' sections, and remaining fabrics on the beds to see what our quilt tops will look like when they are finished. Can't wait to get stuck back into it when I get a free minute (ha ha)!

Preview of my quilt top

Preview of Mum's quilt top

We experienced so much at the retreat that it is not possible to fit it all into one post. So, that's it for now. Next time I will tell you all about my 2nd workshop, 'Opal Fever' with Sue Dennis. If you would like to find out more about Carol Doak you can check out her website here or her blog here.

Happy stitching,