Tuesday, 27 August 2013

New Horizons....and a little 'Jem'

I am very excited to report that just before going on holiday to Norfolk last week I treated myself to a new sewing machine. My original intention was to wait until Christmas, but my very, very old Janome was just not up to the job in terms of quilting; no speed control, no needle down, quite noisy, great little straight stitcher, but ...

...and then while popping along to my  fortnightly quilt drop in session I happened to discover a very good deal with the Janome Horizon QC 8200 with a trade in of my old machine. 

Decision time!  All a bit nerve wracking. Some research was in order. I surfed the internet for reviews, most of which were very good; I watched it in action on the Janome stand at the Festival of Quilts; I read an excellent blog post on this very model by JeliQuilts here which told me all I needed to know. Off I went with a list of things to try out, fabric, quilt sandwiches, and several questions and I played on the machine for an hour in the shop.

It was gorgeous. It purred along so quietly, and was really easy to use.

Reader, I bought it!  Sorry, her.

Isn't she lovely? So far I have only pieced on her, and practiced stitch in the ditch nice and slowly....bearing in mind I have not done a lot of machine quilting to date. 

Here she is in action - the 11" throat space makes her a joy to use:

And her she is with her just arrived today extension table.  No excuses now not to start practicing free motion quilting!

But she is, of course, far too big a lassie to take to classes and workshops...so,

Meet the delightful little Janome Jem Platinum 720 who arrived to day, second hand, fully serviced, and with her very own carry bag,

I have yet to have a play with her, but I'll let you know how I go on.

Anyway, my Christmas present this year will now be a spool of thread!

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Ladies' Paradise aka Festival of Quilts NEC 2013

I went along this year armed with the usual list of fabric, measurements and notions but returned only with some 'machingers', those rubber tipped gloves for free motion quilting, and some cotton poplin sheets on which to print from the computer.

The problem was....there was just too much to see in one day!  Having explored most of the main exhibition categories and a few others besides, had some lunch and checked out the Janome sewing machine stand, I barely had the energy to do indulge in any retail therapy!

It made me think of  The Ladies' Paradise  by Emile Zola - the novel upon which the recent TV series 'The Paradise' was (very loosely) based - in which the book's male protagonist, Octave Mouret, expertly exploits his, mostly female, customers' obsession with fabric and fashion with magnificent displays of cloth and colour to which they flock to admire, touch and of course, cannot resist buying!  I recommend the book, which I have just finished: its is a fascinating portrayal of the rise of the department store in Paris in the nineteenth century and the beginnings of consumer culture. And it mentions fabric...a lot!

Anyway, back to the FoQs....I did take quite a few photos but took my small camera rather than my bigger digital SLR so the photos didn't do justice to many of the quilts. The crowds and lighting are also a challenge!  

It's so hard to choose, but one of my favourites, and it seems a favourite of many others too, was this one, called A Slight Murmur of Starlings by Janie Harvie-Douglas which won a 'highly commended'.

The scene is so beautifully atmospheric and perfectly captures that moment at dusk when the starlings begin to gather for their astonishing aerial displays. I have seen this phenomenon many times at the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss in Lancashire.

Otherwise, for some reason I was drawn this year to some of the beautifully crafted traditional quilts, both wholecloth and pieced, and machine and hand quilted.

Here are a couple of close-ups of  Grace  by Sandy Chandler which  won second prize in the Traditional Category

Worked on sateen cotton, the design was traced onto the fabric and long-arm quilted, guided by hand.

I also spent ages admiring this stunning hand quilted Sanderson Star by Elizabeth Nally,

Elizabeth's artist statement explains that she was inspired by an antique version of the quilt she had seen, and adapted the design to make a smaller quilt. Machine pieced with set in star and hand quilted. Fabulous!  And a perfect example of slow quilting!

I think I was attracted to this and other whole cloth quilts because I too have been thinking of making one and have been looking at the Sanderson Star pattern in Diane Lodge's lovely book, Patchwork where the patterns are all inspired by quilts made between the mid -19th century and the 1930s. I think it would be quite a challenge....but perhaps just a small one to begin with!