March 29, 2010

A gold monocle and a seedy moustache

Meet Sir Reginald Walter, the most eligible bachelor in the dotee world, created for The Bachelor Dotee swap on swap-bot. He has a seedy moustache and a gold monocle! His hankie coordinates with his stripey blue tie! He has a slick part in his full head of hair! He looks a bit like the Monopoly man! He is refined and wordly! And he brought flowers... I'm sure you can see why he drives all the dotee girls wild.

Unlike Dotee Dad USB, where I cut around the countour of the head, here I decided to have a background. I think it worked well. As an added bonus, I used up some cute scraps and a cute button I acquired from the local op-shop.

Once again, I felt compelled to have the back of the dotee mirror the front.

It took several hours to make, and I did the felt in layers. The final dimensions were: 4" tall, 2" tail, 2.5" hanger. Because of the small size, I didn't use real buttons, but instead worked the gold thread into french knots.

I sketched the dotee while having a coffee at my favourite local café. I set up a blank template & was happy enough with the first sketch to go with it. Sir Reginald Walter may have lost the walking stick, but he remained pretty true to the sketch!

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March 21, 2010

Dragonfly... or coconut tree?

After my unsuccessful attempt at traditional piecing for the the dancing dragonfly block, I gave paper piecing a go.

I used trusty Inkscape again, this time to lay out the pieces for each quarter block. The program allowed me to print a very precise paper-piecing template.

Sue Beever has great instructions on paper piecing in her Dancing Dragonfly Quilts book. I followed them, but noticed a few things things:
  • For pieces where the pattern wasn't symmetrical (so for the trapeze parts in the image above, and both "wing" sections), the mirror image of the piece was needed. So to get it to come right, I used the reverse side of the printed paper (where luckily I could still see the lines quite well).
  • Sue called for running paper through the sewing machine, and trimming it with a rotary cutter. I've been so good with not using my sharp tools with paper that I cringed a little as I did it. I should really keep a separate "paper needle" for the sewing machine, and get a spare blade for my Olfa rotary cutter... but I had a deadline and didn't want to take any chances, so I just gritted my teeth and went ahead with it.
  • The seam allowance of two joined bits of fabric both end up being on the same side. So you can't "iron the seams open" in the same way (except for the seams where I joined the four quarters of the block). Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the back of the block... but you get the idea. I also found that it made the joined pieces sit together differently to the ironed-open seam pieces... One side is slightly raised compared to the other (the side where the seam allowance is tucked under...)

On the whole, I found this method to be very easy and accurate. I got a nice 12.5" square pumped out in a matter of hours (I was pretty pedantic, carefully ironing before adding each new piece and having to unpick a bunch of seams I wasn't happy with or that were a result of my placing the fabric the wrong way around). I can't imagine making enough blocks to make an entire quilt!

Anyway, I'm really happy with the way the block turned out, and how the colours make you hesitate... Is it a dragonfly... or a coconut tree?

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the other swap participants come up with, and of course the final quilt!

Related post: First attempt at a quilt block: dancing dragonfly

March 15, 2010

Incoming: bachelor dotee

It's always a thrill to get a package in the mail. Today was no exception... in fact the thrill was doubled because this package came all the way from Belarus!

He was created for The Bachelor Dotee swap on swap-bot. I love the look on his face... and he looks like he's all set for St Patrick's day!

Doesn't he have the most dashing of hats?

Lovely quilt used in the background courtesy of Geta :)

Thank you, LoyIvir, he's a cutie.

Related post: A gold monocle and a seedy moustache (Bachelor dotee I sent)

March 14, 2010

First attempt at a quilt block: dancing dragonfly

I signed up for the Cheryl Lavon Donation Swap on swap-bot. The idea is for participants to contribute quilt blocks to a quilt which will be donated to the American Cancer Association, in memory of Cheryl. I have never made a quilt block before, but that didn't stop me. Swap-bot is a wonderful excuse to try new things.

I headed to my local library, and found Sue Beever's Dancing Dragonfly Quilts on the shelf (all of the "standard" how-to books had been checked out). I was rather struck by the dragonfly motif and decided I'd give it a go.

Luckily the book has lovely piecing instructions for a beginner like me (although a "beginner like me should" probably have tried something like a traditional 9-piece block for her first go). I'm tempted to buy this book sometime in the future, there are so many lovely photos in it!

Next I headed to Lincraft to pick out some fabrics. I had only a very vague notion of things like quilt colour wheels and appropriate motif sizes. So I ended up grabbing the first four FQ of fabric in earthy tones that tickled my fancy (two green, two brown; three dark, one light) just as I was being shooed out of the shop as it was closing time.

After browsing through the book, I decided I'd try block variation #3, and that I'd give traditional piecing a shot.

Next, I played around with colours in Inkscape and I settled on this layout. I like how it kind of looks like a coconut tree! In retrospect it would have been a good idea to play with colours before buying the fabric. But I wasn't that organised.

Inkscape would be a great program for designing quilt blocks, I may do so one day. (I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here!)

Now, being an impatient newbie, I was sure to run into a few stumbling blocks along the way. First of all I was confused about the size of the block. The book had dimensions for making a 12" block, but the swap requirements said a 12½" block was needed. It took me a bit to realise that they were one and the same - depending on whether you include the ¼" seam allowance around the sides of the block in the size!

The next headache was wrapping my head around the cutting sizes for a traditionally pieced block. The author said that "seam allowances vary with the piece's shape", which confused me as I thought the seam allowance was always ¼". I eventually worked out she was talking about adding an allowance to the length of each the side of the block, not about the distance between the block's finished size and the edge you cut along.

Once I worked these measurement issues out, I decided I want to start cutting RIGHT away, even though I hadn't ironed the material (the ruler squashes it flat!), and couldn't find my rotary cutter (but I have scissors and a disappearing ink pen!). Did I mention being an impatient newbie?

I used my A4 cutting board & 14"x4½" quilting ruler to measure out the pieces and used the angles in the ruler to double-check I had cut out the pieces correctly.

However, I was so busy concentrating on this that I managed to make a different kind of mistake: I cut out three triangles instead of two triangles and two trapezoids... it's obvious that I'm thinking like someone who does layered images, not flat ones! Appliqué, much? I salvaged what I could of the fabric by cutting one of the trapezoids out of the useless triangle.

Finally, I had all my pieces cut out. I gave in and ironed them.

And then I started looking at them, and trying to figure out how they would fit together properly....

Before realising that I needed to take into account the seam allowance... which changes the measurements quite a lot for angled cuts (which I don't usually have anything to do with... I tend to deal with rectangles or curves....)

My machine doesn't seem to do a ¼" seam very easily, so I just marked the seam with my disappearing pen...

... and followed the stitch line with the groove on my sewing foot.

All finished!

Here's a shot of the back! I did as instructed and ironed each seam open before adding the next bit of fabric.

Only one problem... it turned out to be wonky & the wrong size. The seam at the bottom was the worst offender, changing by ¼" from side to side. The right-hand side seam was simply ¼" too short.

I have since trimmed it down to a near-perfect 6" square. I'll think of something to do with it...

Not to be discouraged, I'll be trying again soon, using a different method. Probably the paper-piecing one outlined in the book. And I'll be ironing all my fabrics well before-hand.

At least this was only a quarter of the finished block, so I don't feel like I've lost too much time on this one!

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March 10, 2010

Cycling 65km for a cause!

I've lived in a few different places in Canberra, but I've always commuted by bicycle (or bus for those lazy, sick or rainy days). The photo above was from my daily commute from Cook when I used to live there. I love the signs (especially the top one). This stretch of road was always exciting for the tunnels, hairpin turns (see the mirror just before the tunnel entrance?), and dive-bombing magpies.

Canberra has a great bicycle network, with a mix of on-road cycling lanes and shared (pedestrian/cyclist) off-road paths.

This year, I'm straying from the well-beaten track (to and from Uni). I'll be tackling a nice hilly 65km ride on my trusty commuter bike, organised by the Amy Gillett foundation.
If you would like to sponsor me for the ride, please visit
Donations over $2 are fully tax deductible (in Australia)

All money raised will go to supporting the Amy Gillett Foundation’s road safety initiatives:
The Amy Gillett Foundation's primary objective is to reduce the incidence of injury and death caused by the interaction between cyclists and motorists. In doing so, we hope to promote a safe and harmonious relationship of shared respect between the two groups.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to donate, please keep an eye out for cyclists on the roads wherever you live!

Thanks for reading, I'll be back to the regular crafty posts soon.

March 7, 2010

Everything tastes better wrapped in puff pastry!

I recently picked up Vegan Yum Yum's book after spotting it at a local book-store. That very night, I tried a creamy pasta recipe. The next night, I tried the apple strudel.

It was amazing. The recipe was simple, and the result was divine. I hadn't cooked with puff pastry in ages... The experience reminded me of the first time I tried deep fried goat's cheese. I was in heaven. Other types of cheeses were tried. For a while I was coating everything in eggs and breadcrumbs and frying it.

My boyfriend even rolled up chicken curry and rice leftovers into little balls to batter and fry. Oh yes.

The other night, I made a simple rice and veg sauce dinner. I was also craving puff pastry. So I spread out a layer of rice on a sheet of puff pastry, then a layer of sauce, rolled it up and baked it.

It was amazing, if a little funny looking. It's true... everything tastes better wrapped in puff pastry!
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