Monday, 24 November 2014

Arlene's Blocks

Finally, long awaited, Arlene's blocks for both the Garden & Flowers DYOB and Garden & Flowers Traditional are finished.

For Arlene's DYOB block - because Arlene is an Aussie, I chose a selection of flowers from Jenny Bradford's Little Book of Wildflowers in Silk Ribbon. All the flowers in the book are Australian Wildflowers.

First things first - putting lace on the edge of the fan. After going through my basket of beloved antique laces, I finally settled on a beautiful handmade torchon lace. There was only just enough of this one to fit, but it suited so well. It had obviously originally been made for going on a curve - probably along a neckline or cuff, as once it was pinned into place with the edge even with the fabric edge, the lace still had a nice little ruffle to it.
I used a basic blanket stitch in rose coloured No 8 pearl along the edge of the lace, then did small ribbon roses in a variegated pink silk ribbon on the lace itself.

The first seam was done with sprigs of Red Boronia on each side of the seam.

The second seam was done with native Flax on one side, and Buttercup on the other. It wasn't until after I started the flax that I realized the blue ribbon I had chosen for it perfectly matched the blue in the fabric on that patch.

The third seam was done with native Gorse (yellow) and Hovea (mauve) intertwining.

At the top, above the fan, I added a flower called Leatherwood.

To finish off, I did a matching row of blanket stitch along the inner seam, and filled over the flower print in the corner with silk ribbon to match.

For Arlene's Traditional block. I did the last two seams and the remaining patch.

The first seam I did was the long one that bisected the block. I did a random scattering of small ribbon roses in a variegated dark pink silk ribbon along the seam. On the second seam I did a stylised vine with flowers. The petals of the flowers were alternating Kiko stitch and lazy daisy, with a pale purple glass pearl in the centre of each flower.

On the patch I did a large dragonfly. He ended up a bit fat, but it was the first time I had done this style of dragonfly, and overall, I was quite pleased with the way he turned out.

I hope Arlene is happy with the final results for her blocks.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Elizabeth's Block

Last night I was able to finish Liz R's block for the Garden & Flowers DYB RR.
Liz's block was a joy to work on. I simply adored the colours. Most of my stitching was kept in the colours of the block - various greens and purples, and a rusty red-ish touch pulled from a small section of the flowers in the silkie - with gold silk highlights to lift it.

The lace on the bottom left is the second of the two oldest antique laces I have, being cut from a bodice overlay (the other oldest lace was used on Flora's block). This was sewn into place with purple crown stitch on the seam, and gold silk and beads on the lace itself. The flower centres on the edge are done with metallic gold seed beads and gold glass pearls, the flower centres in the body of the lace are done with very light gold tinged Swarovski crystals topped with a metallic gold seed bead. The one on the far left is very close to the seam, but has been sewn on separately from all other stitching, so it can be removed for sewing the block up. It was just as easy to sew it in place where it belonged, as to sew it one inch over into the seam allowance for 'holding'.
Next were the rest of the seams, done in a variety of silk ribbon, Caron Wildflower hand-dyed pearl threads, DMC pearl threads, glass rice pearls, seed beads of various sizes, and some of the wonderful glass flower beads I recently bought from Kathy S.

The last seam done was the one on the top right as that was the most time consuming. It is a continuous drizzle stitch vine, with purple beads scattered through out for buds (or berries - depending on your preference).

Then the web was added, along with Mr. spider at the top of the block, and the dragonfly in the bottom right corner.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Barbara's Block

On Monday last I finished Barbara W's block for the Garden & Flowers DYB RR.
I actually found this block quite difficult to do. For me, crazy quilting is all about the seams and seam treatments, with motifs and other embellishments an added extra to fill in blank spaces. So having to treat a block as a single whole canvas for a picture was very hard. Seam work breaks a block up into pieces, which isn't really desirable if you are treating the block as a single unit to 'paint a picture' on. And when doing a scene, things really need to have a reasonable degree of proportion. It doesn't have to be an OCD level of exactness in proportion, but you can't really have a dragonfly bigger than your flower cart - not unless you are doing a scene of a flower seller who has been zapped back 300 million years to the Carboniferous period. I don't think that was what Barbara had in mind!

So I started, as always, with doing the seams. I chose simple stitches, done in thread that matched the patches, to avoid breaking the block up. Then I added matching beads, to give it some sparkle and texture.

Next I did a variety of flowers in the cart - Shasta daisies, Forsythia, Cyclamens, Agapanthus, Alyssum, rosebuds, and Forget-me-nots. I added a basket-of-flowers charm on the path next to the cart, a butterfly charm above it, and finished it with a little green caterpillar inching its way along the top of the wheel.

Then I embroidered a flowering cherry branch at the top of the block, imagining the cart to be parked under the shade of a tree. I concluded the piece with a lone dandelion growing up beside the pavement, having gone to seed and the seeds starting to be carried off on the spring breeze.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Ain't Life Grand!

Oh lookie, lookie, lookie what just came in the post! A wonderful pressie from Beverlee in Aussie! A fabulous selection of her gorgeous lace, all in various purples - my favourite colour! I can't believe how small you have managed to get them Beverlee! They will definitely be a big hit with CQers - especially for use on the smaller blocks, as it can be so hard to find laces that small. And they are definitely going on my "Ultimate CQ"! *Big smile* Thank you so much Beverlee!

For the most part I just roll with the punches these days - you know, "no biggie", "these things happen", "the pendulum always swings back up", that sort of thing, although I do still battle the occasional bout of depression - mostly in winter. So after ending up in the ED of the hospital a few days ago - acute inflammation of the lining of the stomach - wasn't that fun (not!), and the sudden plunge back into winter just as summer was supposed to be arriving, days like today are always welcome. The sun is shining today, it's a bit warmer, the wind, although gusting fiercely, doesn't feel like it's blowing a iceberg into the house, and it has been a day of "nice things happening".
I pay all my utilities and regular bill by a weekly AP. That way I don't end up getting them all on the same week, getting overwhelmed, or getting into debt and in trouble. I divide the monthly payment (for bills that are variable, like power, I choose an average winter bill to base it on), and I divide that by 4, then pay that much each week by AP. Because there are actually 4&1/2 weeks in a month, this means I always end up in credit.
Last week, I rather unexpectedly had to get extra data on my internet (it's all these auto-playing videos and streaming adverts in the pages - they just suck up the data allowance!), so when my phone/internet bill arrived yesterday (they are both on one bill), I thought "that's not too bad, I can cover that next week, no problem", but then I got the "thank you for your payment" text from the phone company this morning - my last weekly payment hadn't been taken into account for the billing, so I turns out I don't have to pay anything next week. Then about an hour later I get a call from the storage place "Hi, you are too far in credit now, can you put your payments on hold for 3 months please?" It's only a couple of dollars extra each month, but over the course of the past two years it has built up. Ooo... I can see beetle wings in my near future! And then about 40 minutes later the post arrives with Beverlee's surprise goodies! I'm a very happy girl today! Well, back to playing with the laces!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Summer is here... Umm... Where?

Well, it's practically summer in little ol' NZ, and here I am wrapped up in a hat, scarf, woolly jumper, and fluffy socks, clutching a hot drink. It is drizzling outside, the wind is bitterly cold, and there is a sprinkling of snow on the hills, and more in the high country. I can see I am going to have to get in extra firewood this year, and make sure I do a good stock up on basics (flour, sugar, etc) before winter, 'cause it's gonna be a nasty one this year, and I ain't going out in it!
Still, we've had two mild winters, where the garden produced all winter, and the weather was good enough to walk into town to do shopping, although the temp still managed to drop to between 2C and 0C (35.6F and 32F) in the house. But the bad winters are even worse! And this coming one is going to be a doozy!
On the up side, I don't get a lot of crafts done in the mild winters, but in the hard winters (assuming I have gotten enough firewood in), when it can be a whole 3-4 months before I can get out to go up shopping, and there is nothing alive in the garden, all there is to do is crafts! Hopefully this year I will get the tops done on the several Eye Spy quilts I have had the fabrics stashed away for, for the past two years.

Even more exciting, I am hoping to get a start on my "Ultimate CQ". This is a single-sheet sized CQ (being done on a flannel single sheet) that will be entirely hand pieced, whole cloth style, all in fancy fabrics, which I have been collecting up for the past 5 years. Most of the antique laces I scored last December have been earmarked for this project. Was so thrilled to have been able to get those! The gorgeous jewel tone hand dyed laces I got from Nicki at Raviolee Dreams  a while back will also be going into it. 
Getting suitable threads and embellishments has been a lot harder. Silk and other fancy thread are rarer than hens' teeth here (and more expensive!). I could make a hens' teeth necklace before I could afford - or even find - the fancy threads for it here! And most of the embellishments available are either waaaay out of my price range, or are 'plastic craptastic' imitations of the good stuff. But the deities of handwork have smiled on me, and I was directed to a FB page by one of the CQ ladies, for people selling off their excess 'stash'. Yay!
Two of the lovely ladies in particular have gone out of their way to be helpful and accommodating. Kathy S., from whom I have gotten a range of gorgeous crystal beads, glass flower and leaf beads, tiny clay flower beads, charms, and other shiny things - stuff I just can't get here; and Vickie T., from whom I have been able to purchase a range of fancy threads - especially silk ones. And both were selling at phenomenally great prices - enough so that it was worth buying from them in the US in spite of our currently sucky exchange rate and the cost of international postage. Thank you so much, ladies!

Just some of wonderful "pretties" from Kathy S. The threads from Vickie are still on the way.

Also of special mention is Kathy P. I have been trying for some time to get some Shiva Paintstiks, yet another thing we can't get here. They are perfect for using on fabric with my stamps and stencils, store beautifully without drying out, and come in a wonderful range of iridescent colours and metallics. I tried eBay, but none of the sellers would post International, and Amazon only posts books and dvds International, not any of the other stuff they sell. So Kathy very kindly offered to get them from Amazon for me and post them to me here in NZ, and I send the money to her thru PayPal for the cost of the Paintstiks and postage (I do love PayPal - it makes it so much easier to do this kind of thing!). The guy at her local P.O. made the whole process a living hell, and after over an hour of murderous frustration, she ended up having to get her husband to take it to another P.O. further away, on his way to work, to post it! Thank you so much for your wonderful efforts and kindness, Kathy!

I was expecting something the size of oil pastels, so I was surprised - and thrilled - at how big they actually turned out to be!

Several years ago, I sent Mum a list of goldwork supplies I was after (which she bought for me and brought over on one of her trips), to be able to do some of the spectacular stumpwork goldwork beetles from Jane Nicolas' book. I will be doing these on this project, as well as the surface embroidery ones from the book. So the only things left that I really want for this project are shisha mirrors, and beetle wings. Yup, you read right - beetle wings. They were something that were used in Victorian embroidery, and I found an Etsy shop that sells them! So when I have the money, I will get some - not many, but enough to be able to put them in a motif and say " I have done beetle wing embroidery". Yay!

Beetle wings for embroidery