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Work In Progress Wednesday

Reene tried to make me look at the date today, because it had just scared her, but I told her I'm sticking my head in the sand and that's that...  So this week I ended up making a tree skirt for a photo shoot.  Yep, I have nowhere to leave a tree on a longer term basis, and I won't be here for the big day anyway, but I had to make a skirt for a temporary tree.  As you do...  But I did get started on my gran's present, so I'm not entirely ignoring the big day, right?  Right?!  How are you doing?  Go on, make me feel better/normal ;o)

Finishes This Week:

I decided to draft my own pattern for the tree skirt.  I started with a Cori Dantini Merry Stitches panel I'd got from the Stitch Gathering, then added to it with some other fabrics from the line and pondered.  Having pondered for a bit, I decided that the easiest thing to do would be to feature the girls from the panel with a simple patchwork around them (albeit with some extremely OCD mental rules about the fact that no two prints in the same colour could be next to each other, and no two colourways of the same print could be next to each other)

I divided the skirt up into 6 panels, grabbed my protractor and a flip chart pad, and made a template for the sections.  I cut the batting bigger for each bit, and part pieced, part QAYG'ed the sections, then used the template to cut them to size before joining them with a simple zig zag stitch.  I'd thought about using traditional QAYG joining techniques, but then decided I didn't want a solid strip between each section, and since it isn't being used as a quilt, I wasn't too worried about it being rent asunder!  I backed it with an offcut of a sheet I'd used for another backing previously, and bound it with pre-bought bias binding.

I had a slight fan girl moment when Cori Dantini herself liked the progress pic on IG, especially given the dinginess of the lighting in that particular photo!

Yes, I really do have the wonkiest fake Christmas tree on earth, but since the entire thing, including decorations, cost me just under £10, I can't complain too much!

In Progress This Week:

Funnily enough, the present for my gran also uses a Cori Dantini panel.  I've hoarded this one for a couple of years now, but I realised it was the perfect colour way for my gran's living room, so it was brought into the light of day.  A while ago I made my gran a cushion from some faux suede type stuff, as she wanted something for her chair that was big and comfy, but would stand being sat on repeatedly.  A few months later she asked if I would make her an antimacassar from the same fabric, however I knew it would be entirely unsuitable for the task, since it isn't washable.

I've been mentally debating this on and off ever since, but it came to be back at the end of September that what might work was a plain one out of Essex yarn dyed linen in leather for her chair, with a co-ordinating panel for the back of her sofa.  This was where the Beauty Is You panel came into play.  Unfortunately I didn't grab the other prints from the line, as I came to it rather late, but I raided my stash and came up with a range of prints from other lines that I thought would work.

I used some magic numbers to come up with a 'pattern' and got to work on the piecing.  I quilted it with a range of fancy stitches I found on my machine, and my next step is to add the backing, which has some velcro attached clingy stuff so it won't slide off her leather sofa.

To Be Worked On This Week:

Finish gran's pressie
Sort out my left foot that a pot of screen printing ink fell on
Bake some cookies for the neighbours

Linking up with Lee and the gang:

Finish Along Sponsor Highlight - Mad About Patchwork

It's time for the very last of our Finish Along Sponsor Highlights for 2014, and this week it's Mad About Patchwork:

Mad About Patchwork is based over in Canada, and has a lovely selection of stock from fabric to patterns to notions (or haberdashery for those of us on this side of the pond!)  Let's take a look at what grabbed my eye.

This fun collection is the feature bundle for this week, meaning it's 20% off.  It's being sold as Animal I Spy, but I'm thinking of it more as some of my favourite designers' I Spy!

This Alison Glass Handcrafted bundle has just arrived, I think it would be perfect for my IG Rainbow Swap (oh who am I kidding, I want it all for me!)

Want a bit of fun with the kids this Christmas?  Useful for both baking and painting, grab this little apron set in Paint, one for you, one for the kid:

Another fun kit from the Handmade For The Holidays section (a lot of which is on sale BTW) is this table runner.  These are my size of hexies, and it looks like it would be pretty quick to make up!

My last pick, which would also tick all the boxes for my IG Rainbow Mini swap is this shot cotton sampler bundle, so many pretty colours...

Okay, that's all from me for now, you'll have to explore the rest of the store yourself, hop to it!
IG Mini Swap - Sent

Following up from the receipt of my parcel in the IG Mini Swap, I thought I'd better show you what I sent out, because, you know, it wasn't all about me ;o)

Anyway, my partner was Merran waaaaay down under in Australia.  She had a couple of mosaics in her feed, but one wee pouch lurking in the bottom corner of one mosaic, which had an SLR type camera applique on it, sparked my creative urge.  I hunted around a bit, found a graphic I liked, blew it up to A4 size (the biggest paper I happened to have on hand for my printer), and then set about turning it into a pattern, and then into a mini.

Merran had also mentioned a love of LV and text prints, so that covered the background for me, and I decided to go for a simple patchwork so as not to detract from the camera.  I added in the camera strap, which was a combo of stitch sketching and applique, because I felt it looked a bit odd without one.  For the background I quilted 1/4" either side of each seam to keep it simple.

Here's a close up of the camera.  Yes, I wrote the words and the numbers in stitches.  Yes, I clearly need my head examined!

We had to add a label and a way of hanging the mini, so I did a bit of a twofer there and labelled a hanging corner:

I added in a few wee extras - an initial ornament I'd found, a wee pot of lush body cream, the clutch from my Love Sewing pattern last month and a pack of Percy Pigs as I suspected chocolate might wilt under the Australian heat at this time of year!

Thankfully it seems to have gone down well with its recipient, and one of her followers has already expressed her jealousy over the Percy Pigs.  I knew I couldn't go wrong with Percy Pigs ;o)
IG Mini Swap Received

A few months ago mini fever swept over IG, and caught up in the tide, I signed up for the IG mini swap with a mere 990 of my closest friends (or something like that!)  It was organised by Sandy (curly_boy1) who had a small army of swap mamas to back him up.  Mine was local girl Claire, aka Momma Poppins, who I happened to catch up with at the Stitch Gathering a week or so after the assignments went out.  I told her I hoped she'd given me someone nice, or else I knew where to hunt her down ;o)

As it turns out, our Claire done good, and I got this fabulous mini from Becky (@sarcasticquilter):

What isn't terribly clear in the photo above is that all that fantastic quilting has been done in rainbow variegated thread!  Becky was a bit worried about this mini, because she had started another one, which I had loved, but had had to change tack when she realised she wouldn't complete the original in time.  I do hope she gets round to finishing the original some time, it really was looking fab, but this is a great alternative, and gives me a whole load of FMQ options to try and study!

The package also contained some excellent extras:

There's a rainbow dresden mug rug (which I think I'll put on the wall too), some M&Ms and some Lego Mixels!  The chocolate is still in tact, one of the packages of Mixels, not so much ;o)  I shall try and eke them out for a while anyway.

Now I just have to wait impatiently for my partner to receive hers...

A Competition Introspective

Over the last few days there has been much soul searching and existential angst amongst the modern quilting community as the results from the jury selections for the Quilt Con competition have come back.  Around 1350 quilts were entered, and around 350 were selected to go through, so consequently there were a lot more rejections than acceptances coming back.  Those that were rejected have in a way started to panic a bit, 'Am I not modern enough?', 'What did I do wrong?', 'Should I only have made a quilt in solids with lots of negative space?', and more, especially when some people had multiple entries accepted and many others none at all.

Now I didn't enter, partly because I'm not a member of the Modern Quilt Guild, so I'm not entitled to anyway, but I still wouldn't have, even if I had been, because I don't have the time to come up with something suitable right now.  And here's the rub, you need to have created something that satisfied the jury that was making the decisions.

I'm going to take a step sideways here, because although I didn't enter Quilt Con, I did spend a few years in a camera club taking part in their competitions, so I completely understand the concept of someone making a subjective decision on a photo (it was 2 photos per quilt for Quilt Con).  In camera club land, every member of the club could enter 2 images per judged round of competition, and of the 6 rounds each year, 3 were for prints and 3 were for projected images.  There was a league, and at the end of each round the two marks out of 20 that were received for your images were entered in the tables.  Separately from this, at the end of the year there was a final year competition where most people entered their 'best of the best' from throughout the year.  Each round had a different trained judge from a different club who presided over the competition, and who gave marks with feedback on every photo entered.  Those were long nights...

Now as a beginner to the club, and as there were no themes to the competition, I just threw in 12 images that first year, some that I'd taken that year, but most that had been taken beforehand, many in the 6 months I'd just spent living in South Africa.  I had no knowledge of the judges, beyond names on the programme for the year, and no real sense of my fellow competitors.  What I did find though, was that the more experienced club members, those in the 'senior' section (mostly in age as well as experience!), knew those judges intimately.  They knew who loved wildlife, who preferred portraits, who positively wet themselves over a good landscape, and they entered accordingly.  You could tell, looking at the entries as we went through them, that the Beginners section, bless us, had a rather schizophrenic approach to entering, with perhaps a wildlife shot for one entry, and an architectural shot for the other.  That first year I came 3rd in the projected image league and 7th in the print league out of around 25 (I couldn't have finished higher for the prints as I'd missed the first round, only coming back from South Africa in early October).

Here are some of the images from that year:

By the second year, I had more of a sense of what judges wanted as far as the format of a photo - things lined up on the thirds, splashes of colour on a dull background (there was a bit of a standing joke about someone in a red raincoat, heading up a path on a hill, standing perfectly on a junction of two thirds, while the rest of the image was greens, greys, and maybe the odd splash of blue in the sky).  There was a defined layout, if you like, and I was starting to view things as 'good competition photo subjects', even if I didn't know the particular subject loves of the judges.  That year I won the league for both print and projected image and also the end of year prize.

Here are some of the images for that year:

The following year I gave up about 4 months in.

Why did I give up?  Well there were a few things, firstly that the job I had at the time was demanding 80 hour weeks out of me, so I didn't have much time for taking photos, but mainly, since I could have made time for it if I'd tried, because I'd lost all joy in taking photos.  I didn't want to go out with my camera just to take competition photos, I didn't really want to touch it at all.  I had gone from being a beginner using her camera on full Auto mode with jpegs (and winning individual rounds of competition with some of those images) to knowing my camera backwards, forwards and inside out on full Manual mode in RAW format where each image has to be processed in the digital recreation of a darkroom.  I kind of felt like I'd cracked it though, or at least I'd cracked camera club judges, and now what...

Now, nearly 5 years down the line I'm picking the camera up again, and even contemplating processing some of the images.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I haven't taken photos since - I took hundreds on our post Sewing Summit road trip 2 years ago, but I didn't feel like processing them.  I looked at them again as I started to try and find photos for this post, and actually, they weren't bad.  I think the issue was, that at the time I was critically viewing them as 'they weren't as good as the professionals that camp out day and night and track the weather for weeks', so therefore I didn't want to touch them.  I have done that BTW.  Tracked weather and, judged the best time to go out and literally freeze my arse off in the middle of the snow on Rannoch Moor for a good sunrise over the mountains.  Or stood in a lake in freezing temps to get a good sunrise through the mist:

So back to those quilts.  I suspect many who entered have never had to sit there while someone pulled their work apart in front of them to justify a mark they decided to award.  If you can step back and take it abstractedly, it helps.  The judges in both the Quilt Con jury and the camera club don't know the names of the entrants, so it's not a personal attack on you, it's merely that your submission doesn't float their boat.  That's the hard thing about subjective competitions, you are appealing to the whim of a judge, and no matter how much distance the judge tries to take from influencing factors, there are internal preferences that will always surface in their decisions.  Sometimes you don't actually want to hear their thought process either - see that photo of the leopard at the very top?  It won a round during the league competition, but in the end of year exhibition it scored 4 points lower (and out of 20 that's a lot!).  One of the reasons the judge gave was because it had a silly title 'Settling Down For A Post Dinner Nap', and how on earth could the photographer possibly know that?  Well that's because its dinner was also up the tree a few feet to the right of the photo, you can still see the blood on her nose and I personally saw her eating it...  But you can't ever talk back to the judges, so you just have to fume silently!

Saying all that about the anonymity, actually there's a good chance that if you've been around for a while and have a style that's easily picked out, that the judge really does know, whether consciously or sub-consciously, who you are.  Take the Bloggers' Quilt Festival as an example - it's a named popularity contest through and through (and I don't mean that in a bad way, just that if you have loads of friends to appeal to along with good work, it helps a lot more than if you have few friends and good work), but have you ever tried looking at the links in a category to vote and not looking at who submitted them?  Would that ever change your mind about who you voted for?  Or can you pick out the styles of your friends quite easily, and love them anyway over and above people you've never come across before?

I guess the moral of my introspective is this - you can't please everyone when you enter subjective competitions.  If you want to please the judges, then you will force yourself down a road where everything you create is a slave to what those judges define as the ideal subject matter for the competition.  If you do that, you may end up hating something you once loved.  Don't do that!
Bottoms Up!

Earlier this week I took part in Remnant Kings' 12 Days Of Stitchmas, which has been taking place over on their blog.  Originally there had been a party night planned in their Argyle Street shop, but when that was thwarted by external factors, a few of us took on the making of each of the 'Days' and my choice was a bottle bag.  Anyone would think I had friends and relatives that drink...

My fabric choice was a fun penguin home decor weight print, with a black velvet ribbon for the tie:

And here's what it made (apologies for the IG photo, my photo space is temporarily out of action right now, and I forgot to take a proper photo when I took this one)

There's a very simple pattern for this that you can find on the Remnant Kings' blog here.

I will admit to tarting mine up a little bit as follows:

  1. I turned the top and bottom edge over by 1/4" and top stitched before I did anything else, I just couldn't take the raw edges (I have issues)
  2. I French seamed the main seam, again to hide those raw edges.
  3. At the bottom, after gathering as per the pattern, I appliqued a circle with hand turned edges to finish it off.  If you wish to do this, you'll need a 3 3/4" - 4" circle.

This is a quick and easy way to decorate a liquid gift this Christmas, with or without modifications, and just a little bit different from the supermarket standard bottle bag!
Work In Progress Wednesday

Whew, we've been hit by a weather bomb (an apparently new invention by the weather forecasters).  What it basically means is that about half the country has blown past and up against my windows, and about half the Atlantic has come down both in liquid and solid forms in the last couple of days.  Needless to say, I have not taken my 2 recently finished quilts out for a wee photo shoot with all that going on!  My other finish hasn't actually made it past the proper camera yet, but I do have an IG shot of it, so I hope that will suffice...

Finishes This Week:

Pieced in July and basted in October, I finally got my Christmas quilt quilted and bound.  I promise you'll never have to see this photo again ;o)

Because it's now become this, all ready to snuggle under at Christmas.  For anyone wanting a pattern, there's one that Jeni Baker wrote a few years ago, but I basically worked out the biggest HSTs I could get out of the fabric I had, and went from there for the star.  For the corners, it was the biggest 4 squares I could get out of what I had:

My other finish I was a bit more desperate to finish prior to the weather bomb dropping.  I picked up this Wild Kingdom kit from Shannon Fabrics at Spring Market (it came in a box, but that got ditched for luggage weight purposes!  Also, ignore the chevrons, they were an extra in the bag)

If I'd made the kit up to it's original size, it was going to be a wee bit small for my bed size, so instead of using the ribbed one on top as the binding, I added it to the bottom, and I also didn't cut the leopard spot strips in half before adding them in.  I grabbed some additional smooth brown cuddle from Plush Addicts, along with some more ribbed for the binding, and created a Katy bed sized one.  The backing is from a bolt of brown dimpled cuddle that I also picked up at Market, with this quilt in mind.  I'm sorry the photo isn't great, but it was late at night, and I wanted to be underneath it!

My other make was a quick one, a bottle bag using fabric and a pattern from Remnant Kings from their 12 Days Of Stitchmas.  I'll post a bit more about it later this week:

In Progress This Week:

Aside from the above, I've been sorting through fabrics, especially this cube drawer full that was set aside for a special project back in May.  Since the project hasn't happened yet, I thought I'd release them all into the wilds of my fabrics storage so that they have a chance at another project in the meantime.  I've had so many ideas, I can't wait to get going further.

To Be Worked On This Week:

Inspiration mosaic for the UK Mini Swap on IG
I have absolutely no idea which of the many projects that have crossed my mind that I will go for!

Linking up with Lee and the gang: