Wednesday, 15 February 2017

FAL 2017 - Meet the Hosts - Me!

Today it's my turn to introduce myself as one of the global hosts for the 2017 Finish A Long!

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

Flow {A Finished Quilt}

Wow, it's been a long, long time since I've shared a quilt finish in this space! It's nice to be back - and I have several quilts and quilt tops I finished toward the end of last year that I'm hoping to share over the next few weeks. The first two I'll be showing you were made essentially in secret - that is, I resisted my usual tendency to completely overshare what I'm working on. The main reason for this was that both of these were made specifically for the challenge categories for QuiltCon 2016, so I wanted them to be a bit of a surprise *if* they were juried into the show. Neither of them got accepted, so I'm kind of excited to be able to share them at last!

The quilt I'm sharing today was made for the Michael Miller Luxe challenge - she's called Flow and she was a really fun quilt top put together. This is a fairly long post, as I'll be showing a bit of my process as well as a few pictures of the final quilt, so please bear with me! I would normally split this much information across a few blog posts - but I'm making up for my recent lack of blog posts by giving you a single enormous post ;o).

Mid last year, the Modern Quilt Guild offered members the opportunity to sign up for the Michael Miller Luxe challenge, one of the special categories that would be part of the QuiltCon 2017 show. Everyone who signed up for the Luxe challenge was sent two half yard pieces of fabric, in one of the colour stories below. Participants were then allowed to add ONE cotton couture solid to these, and to use any of the Luxe range of fabrics in their quilt. The fabrics I received were the middle two, and I then added a deep teal cotton couture to these, as well as solid white and grey Luxe fabrics.

I have to admit, these fabrics sat in a pile on my cutting table for a good few months before I started getting some ideas about what to do with them. These fabrics are sheeting fabric rather than quilting cotton, and as such have a slightly different sheen (they are quite shiny) and have a wee bit more stretch than regular quilting cotton. I was a little bit nervous about working with them, but eventually I decided improv curves were the way to go, and I started making a few blocks, without any real plan as to what I'd do with them. Apologies for the poor lighting in the next few photos - my design wall has overhead fluorescent lights, which make it really hard to get good pictures of the whole wall. 

Initially, I made a few blocks, thinking I would position them so that there was a continuous improv curve from top to bottom down the quilt. 

But as I kept making blocks, I decided to lay them out more randomly, with more negative space between and around the blocks. At this point I hadn't ordered any solids for the background, and my initial thought was to surround them all with white, and to create continuous curved lines through the quilt with quilting.

But, when I sat down to order the solids, I decided at the last minute to get some grey as well as white, and use this to create some more movement in the negative space. I think this is what I love most about improv quilts - it's such a playful process, figuring out layout and design on the fly. Working with an idea, testing things out and discarding ideas that don't quite work.

I had a love-hate relationship with this quilt the entire time I was piecing it. Thankfully, I have a really awesome quilty friend (kat) who was happy for me to bombard her with photos and questions as I was working on it. I think I've grown so used to oversharing my projects on social media as I'm working on them, that working on something in secret made me feel like I was in a black hole in some ways. I needed the opportunity to get constructive criticism when I was making this, or I honestly think I would have abandoned it. 

In the end, this quilt was a weird combination of improv curves, and some pretty intense precision piecing to get those curves to form a continuous line through the quilt top. It was a really fun challenge, so despite those times I didn't like it, I still enjoyed the process. And seriously, this quilt was SO much fun to add texture to. Quilting is a super important part of quilt making for me - and the whole time I was piecing it I was thinking about how I would quilt it, to add to the sense of movement in the quilt top, and add loads of texture without detracting from the design. I forgot to take a photo of the top before I quilted it, so this is it in full. After I'd finished piecing, I decided to orientate the curves across the quilt, rather than top to bottom, and I much prefer it this way around :o).

As always, I did all the quilting on my little domestic Bernina (440QE), but because it's a reasonably small quilt (around 60" square) it was a really enjoyable quilt to quilt. I decided to use batting with a bit of loft to make all the quilting stand out, so I chose a Wool/Polyester batting - it's become one of my favorites to use. The batting, combined with the fact that it's made from sheeting, has resulted in the softest quilt I've ever made, despite all that dense free motion quilting.

All the quilting on this one is done in Aurifil 50wt - white, dove and a few different blues to blend in with the fabrics. Although I've recently used a few other weights of Aurifil for quilting (40wt and 28wt), for this quilt I decided 50wt was the way to go, as I wanted the quilting to blend into the fabric as much as possible, just leaving all that texture.

I don't often piece backs for my quilts - but I had a few bits of the Luxe grey and white left over, as well as a bunch of half-metre pieces of various blues, aqua and teal cotton couture that I pieced together for this one. Solids are the BEST for showing up quilting :o).

Thanks for making it this far in a pretty epic blog post! As I said, I have a few more quilts to share, which I hope to do over the next few weeks. I've made a few fairly major life changes this year (all good ones) which will mean I have more time and energy to blog more regularly. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy talking about and sharing my projects here, so you'll have to put up with my rambling a bit more frequently from now on...

xx Jess

Sunday, 15 January 2017

FAL 2017 Meet the Host - Nicky from Mrs Sew and Sow

Today, I'm very excited to introduce you to one of our Finish A Long hosts, Nicky from Mrs Sew and Sow. I've known Nicky for a number of years - she is one of the first people I connected with online when I started blogging. I hope you enjoy getting to know her!

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!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Finish A Long 2017 - Quarter 1 Proposed Finishes Link Up

I'm a bit late in getting this post up, but today I'm pleased to announce the Quarter One Proposed Finishes link up is ready. So, are you ready for a new year? A new year a new list!

As you are probably aware, the 2017 FAL is remaining global - a community of bloggers across the world, jointly hosting the FAL. Our hosts are:
  • Sarah - Sew me - Northern Ireland
For those of you who are new to the FAL, it is a place to find motivation and encouragement to complete those unfinished projects that are hanging about becoming UFOs. Every quarter you post a list of projects you hope to finish in the next three months, and then at the end of the quarter, you post a link from your blog, Flickr or Instagram of each successful finish from your original list.

Each finish is an entry for wonderful prizes from our sponsors. There is no penalty for not finishing a listed project, so feel free to make your list long or short, as you wish. The 2017 Schedule and Rules for the FAL are on my permanent FAL page, let me know if you have any questions. Here are the fantastic and generous sponsors for Q1 of the FAL - you can see each of their prizes listed under their logo (think about visiting them and saying thank you):

As you may recall from last year, there was a return of tutorial week at the end of each quarter, between the opening of the link for finishes and the day that link closes. Are you enjoying this? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below! This will take place each quarter. Each host works hard to put these together so I hope you are visiting their blogs to encourage them.
If you have a tutorial that you would like to share, please let me or another host know.

It's time to round up those projects you want to finish over the next three months, take a photo of each one and make your list. Please ensure that you have at least started your projects - pulled fabric with a pattern or plan is not considered a UFO, and remember it is finished projects that will get you an entry toward the above listed prizes. So while we love to see your bee blocks, the "finish" is when they are a completed, usable project.

It is very helpful if you tag your list as #2017FALQ1yourname when posting on social media: Flickr, Facebook & Instagram. Using the same hashtag over the quarter when sharing progress or finishes before the link, helps the hosts find your original list quickly - especially when this is done over a 3 month period. IMPORTANT: Don't forget to link your finishes up when the quarter closes.

The 2017 Q1 link for your list of proposed finishes is now open below on my blog and on each of the hosting blogs. You need only link your list once, on one blog - and that link will show up on all of the blogs. If you are using Facebook, Flickr or Instagram, link a mosaic and put your list in the description. Katy of The Littlest Thistle has a great tutorial on how to link-up if you need it.

We also ask that you become part of the FAL community. Please check out the links of others - visit and comment on their lists. We all need encouragement to get those finishes done, so please share some of your own too. When creating your list there is one thing to remember....No deductions for not completing something so ..... Aim High! Nothing to lose!!!

  Well Now..... Get those lists together and get linked up. The Q1 linky party will stay open until 11 pm EST, January 14, 2017- as we are global, you might want to check your time zone to determine your last possible time to link. Remember: you only need to link up on ONE hosting blog and it will automatically show up on all hosting blogs.