And a-quilting we will go

And so I finally get down to the business of some quilting. Now that the stressful parts (I think) about buying the fabrics and waiting for the fabrics to arrive and worrying about my fabric choices are over... now the real fun can begin.

Piles of fabric; the aftermath of pre-washing; determining order; the first cut is the deepest; class notebook.

Piles of fabric; the aftermath of pre-washing; determining order; the first cut is the deepest; class notebook.

Our teacher, Rachel, has given us some very detailed information on equilateral triangles and tutorials for how you cut them and sew them together for quilts.  This is a good thing.  She is also available to answer questions on our class site or on our private Flickr group.  I am learning tons from my fellow classmates too.

But of course everything starts with pre-washing.  Yes, I am a pre-washer. When the class first got together some of us did a Google Hangout and the subject came up, and it seems that the majority don't pre-wash, instead preferring to dig straight in, and to throw a 'colour catcher' sheet into the first wash to handle any dye running.  

I like to pre-wash for a lot of reasons, but mainly because I enjoy handling the fabrics much more after they have been washed. Pre-washing gets rid of the chemicals and sizing which all fabrics carry straight off the bolt, it also deals with the shrinkage (which can vary from fabric to fabric) and of course, any dye loss. I even enjoy pressing the fabrics after they have been washed, because it gives me another opportunity to look and touch and consider my choices. And finally, I think the fabrics stick together much better after washing, which makes all the piecing so much easier. The only part I don't love about pre-washing is all of the fraying. When things come out of the washer they tend to be gnarled up into strangulated bunches and I have to cut them apart and trim all the thread. I have tried 'pinking' the edges before laundering but it doesn't seem to help much. 

The other good thing is the weather. Remarkably, for southern Florida, we are having a rather grey and rainy weekend.  (It rains a lot here, but it's usually quick & nasty tropical downpours and the sun is out 30 minutes later.)  

A grey & wet day to sew away the hours.

A grey & wet day to sew away the hours.

I guess all those years in London have left their mark, and there is something particularly satisfying about spending a grey & wet day inside, cozy and warm and making something with thread. I had a tiny little attic crafting room in London where I could look out over the treetops while I stitched away.  Days like this in Florida bring a little of that back for me and I really enjoy it. 

Quilting soundtrack:  Mark Lanegan, and Banks.

The Fabric Pull

I have been working on my fabric pull for one of the quilts for the online course that I am taking with Rachel Hauser of Stitched In Color.  Do you like how I threw that quilter's turn of phrase in so casually - "fabric pull".  I have just learned that from hearing my teacher and fellow classmates use it.  Before this I would have said something really pedestrian like "picking my fabrics".  Ugh, such an amateur.

The quilt I am working on is called "Emerge" and it's a beautiful design with a star sliding off of a big background fabric.

Emerge Quilt from Angled class run by Rachel Hauser of Stitched In Color

Emerge Quilt from Angled class run by Rachel Hauser of Stitched In Color

A couple of cool things about this quilt are that the background fabric can be one piece, and the star, once sewn, is appliqued on, which mean we can use a nice feature fabric, like Rachel did in the example above. Usually in quilts you are working in fabric which is cut into smaller pieces and sewn into blocks, so that (even if it appears to be big chunks of the same fabric) you can't often use large-scale prints or directional weaves/prints for large sections.

I had some trouble finding a really wide background fabric that I liked for this. A lot of the gals in the class are using big prints sourced from Ikea (and in fact Rachel's example includes an Ikea print), but I struck out at our local Swedish temple last week - they only had interesting stuff in heavier, canvas-weight home dec fabrics.  I was really stressing out about what to do (for the record, there is plenty of wide fabric out there for quilting, but it's usually used for backs, not fronts,  and tends to be rather dull). My single complaint about this course so far is that I wish we had been given more time to shop for fabric - there was really only two weeks between sign up and kick-off.  Most of the class seems to be shopping from their stash, but my stash just isn't that big (yet)!

Then I had a lightbulb moment and thought about using some of of Robert Kaufman's amazing House Of Denim collection, which comes in lightweight denims, shirting and chambrays. I am of course, totally an indigo blue addict, so what better than a jewel-coloured star popping out of an indigo background? I ordered a couple of fabrics and figured I could pull the star fabrics from my stash later.  

These are my two options at the moment.

Railroad denim background with star fabrics.

Newcastle denim in indigo with star fabrics.

I have a nice shirting for the back as well.  I can't decide on the solid or the stripe.  Also I have just ordered some of the chambrays - I have a small piece of a dotted one which I love the feel of.  So, we'll see.  I'm pretty happy with those star fabrics, but as they only require small pieces, I do have tons to choose from in my stash.  Votes on a postcard please!

Emerge is actually the second quilt we're learning in the course... but my fabric order for the first quilt was delayed (grrr) so I'm just working on selections for this one until I can get stuck in.

It's all terribly exciting.


Gone to camp

There are at least a hundred things which Florida has going for it. For example, in a "best weather" face-off against London, Florida (pretty much any part of it) would win, hands down. Also, there are lots of Tiki bars here. I could go on...

One thing I have struggled with however is the lack of craftiness. And I don't mean a general demeanor of deceit.  I mean folks getting their craft on - sewing, knitting, crocheting, gluing, painting, pasting and getting glitter all over the floor. Sure, we have the awesome temples of craft that are Michael's and Jo-Ann conveniently located every 10 miles or so...but are amazing as it is to have so many handy supplies at your fingertips, they somehow reek of school projects, science fairs, and school holiday time-fillers, and less of hand-quilting, hand-dying, unique and beautiful makes.  

I have been on the hunt for the Local Yarn Shop, and the Local Fabric Shop, and have thus far been unsuccessful in finding anything with even a smidge of the DNA of my beloved haunts of London - Ray-Stitch or Loop.  (I actually just looked at the Ray-Stitch class list and it makes me physically sick to know that I am missing a quilting class with the wonderful Jane Brocket. Ladies of London, please run don't walk.....)  But you know, I'm not giving up.  I was delighted yesterday to realise that one of my favourite fabric designers/quilters Carolyn Friedlander is from central Florida. Apparently her town is full of crafters... but it's 200 miles away, so I don't guess I'll be integrating into that community yet! I have been to all the local flea/craft fairs that I could sniff out, and I'm sure there is something out there which I have yet to discover, so I keep making lists, and searching.

So, due to the crafty desert surrounding me and also due to the fact I am having some difficulty focussing on craft projects (too many familial distractions), I decided to sign up for an online quilting class.  I loved the two quilting classes that I did at Ray-Stitch, and I figure with lots of online coaching, some community spirit, and some deadlines, what could possibly go wrong?

The class that I found is run by Rachel Hauser of Stitched In Color.  She has been running classes for a while and there are generally good vibes about her around t'internet.  I love her quilts, and her blog is full of great tutorials and information. The class I am doing is called Angled, and yes, it's about angles - equilateral triangles, diamonds, half square triangles and flying geese for example.  Seems like a good next step for me as I have only worked on blocks, squares and strips so far in quilts.

I have signed up for the "Camp" version of the course which is a small group of 20 learners, we have our own private areas for personal attention, and we will have regular online chats and meetups.

I'm really excited, looking forward to learning a lot and having some fellow quilters to socialise with online.  I will post some progress updates here as we get going!