Preparations

/ Sunday, 23 June 2013 /
I am about to embark on a trip to the far side of the world.  I'm not a particularly good traveler - I don't like to fly and I am by nature a homebody. I'm sure I'll enjoy myself once I get there, but as the flight time gets closer I get more and more anxious. What better way to manage anxiety than to do what I like most: sew! I wanted to use the quilt-as-you-go method for bag panels made popular by Elizabeth Hartmann, and I chose one of her perfect quilted tote patterns to try it out. Here's the final product:
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Here is the inside. I used directional fabric (this is from Amy Butler's Lark line, I believe), and I got one of the pieces going the wrong way around (not the only time I was directionally challenged), but it doesn't bother me.  There's an internal zip pocket and a little slip pocket. If I were to do this again, I'd interface the slip pocket, as it is pretty limp and I don't know how useful it's going to be for actually holding things.
Bag interior
I made an alteration to the pattern to increase functionality. I added a panel to the back that has a zipper at the bottom. This allows the bag to slip over the handle of a roller bag. When it is being used as a regular handbag, you can close the zip and it acts as a large outside pocket. I'm super proud of this feature, since I figured it out by myself (I didn't think of it myself - I have seen this on other travel bags in shops).
Back has pocket with zipper on the bottom to slide over roller bag handles
Here's a closer shot of the zipper on the bottom. You might also notice that the bird on the back panel is sideways - I didn't realize I had pieced this bit the wrong way around until the pocket panel was finished, but I wasn't bothered enough to make another one.
Zipper on the bottom - close if using for non-roller bag travel and it makes an outside pocket
Can't recommend the pattern highly enough. Many colour photos, very thorough text. I used cotton canvas as a base for the quilt as you go, with Soft and Stable as the batting, and I think this is a fantastic combination. The Soft and Stable simply knocked my socks off - it makes a great bag that really holds its shape so well. I think I'll never go back to fusible batting. Here's what the final product looks like in action.
Tote bag completed!
I'll be going to Australia to do some work with a colleague at the University of Sydney, then to Hong Kong for a conference. I'll leave Hong Kong to go back to Australia to visit with another colleague at the Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane) for a few days and then I'll go to New Zealand (Wellington) to see my brother and sister-in-law. And then home.  In all, I'll be on planes for over 70 hours during the month I'll be away. Any ideas about (1) how to survive the long flights, (2) must-read ebooks, or (3) things to do/see in Sydney, Brisbane, Hong Kong or Wellington NZ will be gratefully received!

EPP for the win!

/ Monday, 17 June 2013 /
Now for the winner of Jessica's book Quilting On the Go! I wish everyone could win, but the RNG picked #45. The winner is Deborah!

Deborah, I'll be sending you an email with details soon - congratulations! And if you didn't win my giveaway, you can have another chance by going to visit Lucy.  The blog tour for the book continues:

June 17     Lucy at Charm About You            http://www.charmaboutyou.com/
June 18     Katy at I'm A Ginger Monkey          http://www.imagingermonkey.blogspot.com/
June 19     Ara Jane at What Ara Jane Loves        http://whatarajaneloves.blogspot.com/
June 20     Kathy at Pink Chalk Studio Blog          http://www.pinkchalkstudio.com/blog/
June 21     Jessica at Life Under Quilts                http://lifeunderquilts.blogspot.com/

I also wanted to show you another example of how EPP isn't restricted to hexagons or diamonds. I've had this Camelot pattern by Trish Harper for ages; it sure makes a gorgeous quilt. The blocks are made for hand piecing, but I thought I'd try them using EPP. Here's the first one; it's a bit wrinkly since I pressed it with the papers still in, but I wanted to set the seams before I removed the papers. It worked pretty well, so I am busy prepping a few more blocks to take with me on my travels at the end of the month. I will be spending over 60 hours in the air in the space of a month, so I'll need plenty to keep me busy!
#Camelot quilt block but done via #EPP

P.S. Don't forget that Paper Pieces is offering 20% off your shopping cart for the duration of the blog tour!


Quilting On the Go blog tour and giveaway!

/ Tuesday, 11 June 2013 /
I am thrilled to be the one to kick off the blog tour for Jessica Alexandrakis' s book Quilting On the Go, published by Potter Craft in North America and Search Press elsewhere.


This blog tour runs until June 21 at the blogs listed below. There are two chances to win a copy of this great book. Leave a comment on this post until June 15, with the winner announced on June 16, or visit  Lucy at Charm About You from June 17-21.


June 11     Lesly at StitchLiterate           http://pickledish.blogspot.com
June 12     Clare at Selfsewn                  http://selfsewn.blogspot.com/
June 13     Christina at A Few Scraps      http://afewscraps.blogspot.com/
June 14     Victoria @ Bumblebeans        http://bumblebeansinc.blogspot.com/
June 15     Amanda Jean at Crazymomquilts   http://www.crazymomquilts.blogspot.com/
June 16     Laura at Quokka Quilts                http://quokkaquilts.blogspot.com/
June 17     Lucy at Charm About You            http://www.charmaboutyou.com/
June 18     Katy at I'm A Ginger Monkey          http://www.imagingermonkey.blogspot.com/
June 19     Ara Jane at What Ara Jane Loves        http://whatarajaneloves.blogspot.com/
June 20     Kathy at Pink Chalk Studio Blog          http://www.pinkchalkstudio.com/blog/
June 21     Jessica at Life Under Quilts                http://lifeunderquilts.blogspot.com/

Jessica blogs at Life Under Quilts, and she is responsible for getting me hooked on English Paper Piecing. In 2010 I was looking for some kind of portable hand project to take with me on a trip to the US and Jess suggested I try EPP. I had never been such a big fan of the hexagons, but I did like the 60-degree diamonds. I was surprised at how quickly these little scraps of fabric and paper or plastic added up and transformed into something amazing! There are a couple of small photos of my first EPP project in Jess's book, and I blogged about it in this post, but here's another photo of it:
EPP 60 degree diamond star quilt
The book is filled with many time-saving tips and great ideas for organizing fabric and supplies for travel. I learned so much from watching the video that Jess made, one handed (holding her baby with the other), a long time ago, and all those helpful suggestions are in the book. I used the plastic Quilt Patis templates for my diamond EPP projects, but another great option is the precut paper templates from Paper Pieces. If you want to try these, it's a good time to do so, because they are offering 20% off your entire shopping cart, no minimum purchase, with the code UNDER20, during the blog tour.
Jess asked me to show some photos of other EPP projects I've been working on, and it's good timing to show the finished quilt top of this rose star project that I started about a year and a half ago. I jumped on the bandwagon that Clare at Selfsewn was leading at the time, and I loved making every single block. 
Rose starlets all pieced.
I'm not generally a fussy cutter, but this time I did fussy cut all the centre hexagons. This one with the Lizzie House fox is my very favourite.
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I just have to decide how to deal with the edges of this quilt. I could make a few half stars to even out the edges - it will either be that or applique the edges onto a wider border.
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I wasn't entirely sure about that Ghastlies fabric as a background at first, but I do think it is a good choice - it has a bit of action, but not so much that it competes with the stars.
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I can't recommend EPP highly enough if you are casting about for a portable project to take with you. I can't do any kind of sewing in the car because I get queasy, but I have certainly taken these projects with me on many a train or plane trip.  I'm a very nervous flyer, and hand stitching keeps me calm on the plane. When I travel for work, I like to have an EPP project to do at night while I sit in my hotel room before bed. So I really find that having an on-the-go EPP project is a must, and even at home, most every night I have something in my hands while we watch television. Here is a photo of my most recent plane trip in May:
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I've got the fabric cut diamonds for the whole project in the larger zip bag, and basted diamonds in the smaller bag. I have a larger pair of scissors in my checked bag, but these tiny Gingher snips meet TSA specs, although I have often had my carry-on gear inspected once they see them in the x-ray. I once posted about how I hated that Clover desktop threader, but I realized that I was using the wrong needles. If you use round eye needles, it works a treat, and I couldn't live without it. It's a bit bulky for traveling, but I do love it that much now. 
Here's how that project looks now. It's only going to be a little mini - I wanted to try working with those Oakshott cottons. The depth and play of the colours don't show up so well in these photos - they are amazing to work with and to see in person.
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Just one warning about flying with EPP: be careful during turbulence. As I mentioned, I don't like flying, but I do find that hand stitching gives me something besides crashing to think about and calms me down. One time we hit a patch of turbulence and as I was drawing the thread through, I poked myself in the cheek with the needle! So use caution!
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(Hmmm, it looks like I have been thoroughly over-served in this photo, but it was only the sunlight in my eyes.)
Quilting On the Go can be purchased at these outlets:

Congratulations, Jess, on producing a great book, and thanks for allowing me to be part of it! To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below telling me about your experience with EPP. The comment thread will be closed the evening of June 15, and I will select the winner on June 16. If you don't win, be sure to go visit Lucy June 17-21 for another chance!  Edited to add: if you can't find the comment box, you may not be at the permalinked page for this post. Go here, and it should be there for you. June 16 update: The giveaway is now closed and the winner will be announced shortly - good luck, everyone!

Fab Little Quilt Swap completed

/ Sunday, 21 April 2013 /
Finished! I hope you like it, partner!
I got quite a bit of feedback on the different possibilities for backgrounds on this little mini, and of course the opinions varied as much as they possibly could. I think this is a good sign that my instincts are generally good, since all of them could have led to nice results, albeit all quite different in their overall effect.
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In the end, I went back to my partner's profile and tried to get a holistic sense of what she would like. She wasn't very involved in commenting on the photos or in the discussion threads, but from her description of her likes and dislikes, I finally went with the Nicey Jane yellow fabric.  I used a narrowish zigzag to quilt the segments of the flower, and I think it looks nice.
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Just to recap, I used Johanna's Royal Bloom tutorial for this flower, but instead of English paper piecing, I used raw edge applique and added a couple of die-cut flowers for the centre motif. It was relatively quick and easy, and the impact is all bang for the buck. I think I'll have to try this one again, for myself this time!


Fab little quilt

/ Sunday, 14 April 2013 /
Auditioning backgrounds, please opine: yellow Nicey Jane
I've never made a mini quilt for myself, although I've been involved in quite a few swaps. It's a fun format to work in, it doesn't take too long and you get to do things that would be prohibitive in a larger quilt. Currently, I'm completing one for the Fab Little Quilt Swap on Flickr. I used the pattern pieces that Joanna kindly made available, but while she used hers for EPP (in a gorgeous pillow that I have to make for myself one of these days), I chose to fuse them to use for raw edge applique. I fused the petals to a fat quarter of pale pink Art Gallery oval elements, and then trimmed off the excess and left an edging of the pink.
For fab little quilt swap. What do you think, partner?
The aqua petals didn't come together perfectly in the middle, so I used my Sizzix dies to make a couple of flowers to place over the centre.
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I set my machine to a narrow zigzag to applique the pieces down.  It was fairly tedious!
Raw edge appliqué
I auditioned a number of different backgrounds, and it was interesting to see how the effect of the central motif altered as a function of background colour.
I really liked this red one.
Auditioning backgrounds, please opine: red Brandon Mably print
And I also liked this blue one - although my husband hated it.
Auditioning backgrounds, please opine: blue Innocent Crush
I liked the idea of this print with the pale aqua text, but I felt like I lost the pale pink border entirely.
Auditioning backgrounds, please opine: Aqua text print
Then there was this gold one, which is from Tula Pink's Parisville line, but I ended up going for the one at the top of the post. It's a Nicey Jane print, and the little purple dots just make it perfect, I feel.
Auditioning backgrounds, please opine: gold Parisville
Again, I have a partner that is pretty silent on the discussion boards and doesn't make comments on the photos, so all I have to go on is the few words about her likes and dislikes that she wrote when she signed up. She likes purple and bright colours, so I hope she likes this!

Some things are worth waiting for

/ Thursday, 21 March 2013 /
EPQ_STAR_QUILT_FULL

In the summer of 2010 (if I recall correctly), I was looking for a hand piecing project. I had never done any significant hand sewing but I wanted something I could work on while watching television in the evenings. Jessica suggested I try English paper piecing, and on her blog I saw some of her spectacular quilts made with this technique.  I decided to try it - I was particularly happy with the way it could use up some of my tiniest scraps. Here's what I produced the first month.
one month's worth of diamonds
Several people have said that EPP is addictive. It certainly was in my case! I was surprised at how quickly the little stars went together. I assembled them the way Jessica showed in a little video that was on her blog, and like her, I used the plastic Quilt Patis templates. I made every star out of the same print, but used many different light diamonds for the  background. I really like how I was able to use some of the oldest fabrics from the early  '90s in my stash.  Here are a few progress shots over the course of the 14 months it took me to make the quilt.  A couple of the photos of the completed quilt top have been widely Pinned; if only they could see it now!
Looking up at the stars

Backlit diamonds

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Jessica is such an EPP maven who has made so many beautiful quilts that it's no surprise that she was asked to write a book on EPP for Quarto Press. What was a surprise was that she asked me to share my quilt in the book, as well. After I finished piecing the top, it had been sitting around for several months. This gave me the impetus to get it finally sewn up. This was also the first quilt I had professionally quilted; it was done by the so-talented Shannon Baker. When it came home, I nearly fell over. I couldn't stop touching it! I took some photos, but I knew it had to keep a low profile. I do get annoyed when people say "I've been working on something top secret that I can't tell you about". I put one picture up on Flickr but didn't say much about it. Jess has made the announcement about the book so I can now show off my quilt! I admit it's been hard to keep quiet about it! These are some of my photos.

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It was agonizing to send the quilt off to London to be photographed for the book! So far away and so many possibilities for going astray!  They kept it for ages, but when they sent it back, they included some high res photos on a CD for me. I had made a little label using the alphabet letters on my machine, and they seemed to like this a lot. There must have been six or seven shots of the label alone. It wasn't even well done - my machine didn't seem to like the word "Ontario". Never mind. I'm including it here so you can see the Kaffe Fassett fabric I chose for the back. These are the photos taken by Quarto's photographer (I'm sorry, I don't know his or her name); the photo at the top of the post is theirs, too.

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Edited to add: Sharp-eyed Jess noticed this little purple bit on the lower left corner in the photo above and wondered about it. When I was straightening up the edges before binding the quilt, the edges on the left and right had to be trimmed (e.g., whole hexagons cut in half), but the top and bottom had a more or less straight edge right from the paper piecing. However, I had forgotten to add the last little light triangle on that side, so I just used some of the binding fabric to cover the bit of batting that was peeking through.

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If you want to learn EPP and how to make a quilt like this and many other things using this portable and addictive technique, be on the lookout for Jess's book Quilting on the Go. Published by Potter Craft, it will be available in June (if you are in the UK/Europe, look for it earlier and published by Search Press)!


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