Learning Curve

Back in 2006 my mother announced that as I had left home she was going to redecorate my bedroom as a guest room. Whilst I had no particular objection to my room being used by guests, for some reason (I don’t remember why now) I took exception to the fact that she planned to choose the colour. I can only describe this as a belated fit of teenage pique. 

I declared that the room should be cream with red highlights. To cement this I began work on a red quilt for the bed. Prior to that I had only made one quilt. A paper pieced single bed sized quilt of 4″ squares. The red quilt would be an altogether different animal. 

This has been a difficult quilt. I didn’t know quilting shops existed when I chose the fabrics, so the quilt was comprised of the small range of reds, oranges and yellows stocked by the tiny haberdashery in my parents’ home town. 

I hadn’t seen any quilts in real life (other than the one I’d made) at that point so I had no design ideas to reference or any real technique. I wanted a sort of spiral swirl coming out from the middle. It’s okay, even as I was doing it, I knew it wasn’t pretty or captivating. I persevered. The top was machine pieced on my mother’s sewing machine during holidays from university. It was a little hodgepodge but it held together. 


The one part of the quilt that I was instantly pleased with was the embroidered centre piece. I spent a summer creating the bullion knot fire motif. I then whip stitched it onto the centre of the quilt. Now I would have a much better technique for doing the appliqué, but back in 2008 I didn’t even know what appliqué was. 


Some time later (I don’t remember how long it took) I finished the top and basted the quilt sandwich. I decided that each fabric would have its own quilting design. Initially I hand quilted, but when I eventually got a sewing machine I started experimenting and trying different techniques. 


I got very bored of burying my quilting ends, but wasn’t really sure how else it could be done. This, combined with the fact that I wasn’t enamoured with the fabrics or the design, meant that it was slow going (very slow going). It was often ignored and shoved to the back of my cupboard. Little by little it inched forward before being abandoned for another few years. 

A couple of weeks ago I realised I wasn’t even sure how close I was to finishing it. I pulled it out of the bag and was extremely surprised to discover that all it needed was binding! I must have finished quilting and squaring it last year sometime. I probably then got distracted by something else and it ended up just packed away.

I set myself the challenge of using a lunch break (just 45mins) to see how far I could get with the the binding. I finished it with 90 seconds to spare. 😀🎉. 


Later that evening I made a quilt label. A few days after that I attached the label and… voila!!!


It only took 11 years but my second ever quilt is finished at last. Now it can take its place in my childhood room in my parents’ house where I’ll only have to see it on the occasions I visit. 

I Spy a finished Jigsaw Quilt

I’m so excited to share my latest finish with you today. This quilt is for my godson as his christening present in a few weeks time. I’m delighted I got it finished in time.

Thank you for your comments and suggestions on the layout. I trialled (what seemed like) every combination of block placement possible. In the end I felt that the quilt needed something smooth and flowing to balance the riot of colours, images and corners. A rainbow effect seemed to tie everything together and give the overall Jigsaw coherence. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.img_0802.jpg

 

It’s a really busy quilt, but I like that the busyness of the patterns mean that it can cope with so many bright colours. The images were gathered over a series of months from scraps and fat quarters that caught my eye. I also asked his mum for some of his old baby clothes so I could include them as well. That’s where the larger motifs and the two pockets came from. I’m hoping that the I Spy element of the quilt will keep it fun as he grows up and starts learning to talk.

The finished size is 39″ x 44″. I quilted in the ditch around each square and then free motion quilted around each Jigsaw protrusion. That was hard going but I got better as I went along. For the larger blocks I just picked out a couple of shapes/lines in each to quilt over to stabilise it.


It’s been washed (very gently in the bath) and it didn’t fall apart, so when I’ve worked up the courage I’m going to try it in the washing machine. I want to be able to confidently tell his mum that it can withstand normal household usage. Fingers crossed.

The quilt itself is nice and snuggly. I was very cosy with it on my lap whilst I buried my quilting ends. However, for an 8-month-old I figured a play mat would be just as useful as a blanket. So I came up with an idea to make it suitable for both indoor and outdoor play. Here it is in its outdoor mode.

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Don’t notice much difference?

We’ll look closer at the corners. On the underside of the quilt I placed a button hole in each corner.


Then I got a piece of vinyl table cloth and cut it a little bit larger than the quilt. Using the leftovers I made a button hole square and attached it to the underside of each corner of the vinyl.


And voila!! Now the quilt can be used outside without worrying about it getting wet or muddy. Simply attach the two layers together with the buttons in each corner.

2017 Finish 1 – New tea cosy

For Christmas 2016 my sister got me a beautiful Emma Bridgewater teapot and 4 cups. I’ve blogged about my ‘slight’ tea obsession before (here, here, and here).

I felt that a new teapot obviously deserved a new tea cosy to help keep it warm. My old tea cosy was looking a little tired (though I still love the fabrics in that one). In some places the piecing was beginning to come apart and it had some tea coloured stains inside from spillage over the years.

IMG_0637Does it sound like I’m working to hard to justify my need to make a new tea cosy? Probably.

I put it down to the fact that my husband has now introduced a strict ‘one in one out’ policy on teapots. The total number of teapots in my possession cannot exceed 5. It’s a tough rule!

I’m really pleased with the new tea cosy. I picked the colours to match the pattern on my new tea set (more or less). All the fabrics came out of my stash and it was fun to play with tiny squares (1.25″)

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A quilt for my uncle

My Grandmother died early in 2015. Her eldest son (my uncle) asked me to use some of her favourite clothes to make a quilt. He gave me a huge pile of clothing but picked out a bright red skirt and a purple paisley skirt as most important to include. He also requested that I include the image of a ship. Recently, he and Granny had enjoyed going on cruises and he wanted their shared hobby to be reflected in the quilt.

The design for this quilt was a long time coming. However, in the end I picked a few more items of clothing that co-ordinated with the two ‘must include’ items. I then ordered some nautical themed fabric to help with the overall coherence of the quilt. I experimented with some scene-based layouts but I’ve never done an ‘art’ quilt and it just didn’t feel right to me. I eventually decided to use equilateral triangles all over. I felt this had a nice link to signal flags used on ships (so enhancing the nautical theme) but also gave each of the fabrics a chance to be recognisable in their own right and so do the job of being a memory quilt

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Granny’s red skirt was given pride of place with a single triangle to make it really stand out. I also added a flange to the border using the red fabric so it encircled the whole quilt. It felt like the best way to include it without throwing off the nautical colour scheme.

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Archer decided that he had to be in all the pictures of this quilt. There is just no arguing with him when he’s that cute.

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I embroidered a ship in one of the triangles made from one of Granny’s old bed sheets. The quilting was simple wavy lines to evoke the sea in an otherwise very angular pattern.

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This quilt was a really strange journey for me. In the beginning stages it was all about remembering Granny and doing something to work through my own feelings. However, the more I stitched the more it became my uncle’s quilt. My thoughts shifted to him, his relationship with Granny, my relationship with him, and how this quilt could help stitch our family closer together. Finally I made the quilt label. Instead of naming the quilt, I just embroidered a message that summed up everything the quilt had come to be.

Cushions galore (2015 Finishes 9, 10, 11 and 12 )

Note: This a very delayed post that I began drafting back in 2015. I don’t know what it took me so long to press publish.

In preparation for Christmas visitors last year I bought a couple of huge 3ft cushions for guests to lounge on in front of the fire. I only got round to making a cover for one of them. I re-purposed an old single duvet cover so it was a nice and easy finish. I started to make a matching cover for the second cushion but it didn’t get finished. I’m not sure why I only did one at the time but it doesn’t really matter now. One of my dearest friends loved the cushion and always chose it over available chairs when she came to visit.

Fast forward a few months and my cushion for guests got claimed by a new owner. A very cute little beagle puppy who joined our family and turned our lives upside down. Yvonne lost her cushion and Archer gained the biggest bed a tiny puppy could dream of.

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He loves this cushion. It’s his favourite place to curl up and snore away the evenings. When I do occasionally have to strip the cushion to wash the cover he gets ansty. This week I decided enough was enough. I finished the second matching cover so that there is always one available for Archer’s cushion (finish #9). Then I made a third cover for the ‘as-yet-uncovered’ second cushion so that Yvonne can have her spot back too without having to share her seat with the dog (finish #10).

While I was on a bit of a dogbed making roll I used up loads of my fabric waste that has been accumulating to make a couple of smaller beds for Archer (finishes 11 and 12). These go in the kitchen for him to sleep on at night, or near wherever I happen to be working when he wants to stay close but be comfy. He gets through these quite quickly by chewing the corners but they are easy to fix or recycle in to newer versions with an extra outer layer.

So that takes 2015’s tally up to 12 finishes.

 

Chevron Quilt: An imperfect finish is better than none (2015 finish #8)

Note: Another partially drafted, but long delayed post, because I hadn’t taken the pictures. Now added in

This quilt was a salutary lesson in pragmatism.

When we moved into our new house we inherited a terracotta carpet in one of the bedrooms. It’s not my style but I did the best I could with it and decorated the room with a pale turquoise to give it a modern twist. I was hunting for fabric for a quilt to pull the room together for about a year. Then I found a Sweet Serenade layer cake at a quilting show. The fabrics were beautiful and I wanted to keep the pieces quite large to let the pattern show. It struck me as great opportunity to try a new technique for me: Triangle piecing. Which in my mind lent itself to a chevron quilt.

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I read a tutorial online (sorry, can’t remember where now) that suggested a novel approach to creating triangles:

1) Lay two layer cake squares right sides together

2) Stitch 1/4″ from the edges on all four sides totally sealing the two squares together round the edge

3) Slice the squares diagonally to create 4 squares each made of 2 triangles.

This method is ridiculously quick and easy to do accurately. I loved it. However, there is a catch – a big one. By cutting on the diagonal all four sides of your pieced squares are on the bias and so very prone to stretching as you sew.

I was really careful handling and piecing my triangles into the chevrons. If I use this technique again (which I might because it was so quick and easy) I would go nuts with the spray starch to help stabilise things a bit more.

My original plan had been to add a wide border from the backing fabric with some smaller chevrons for corner squares. I pieced the corner squares, cut the border and attached it to the Chevron section. It stretched – A lot. My border was cut accurately but after attaching it to the bias edges of the triangles it was at least 6 inches too short on the long ends. I took it off and tried to ease the fabric back into a flat straight shape. Then I did something new for me… I let the fabric win.

My chevron section was nice, neat and entirely pretty by itself. The only problem was that it wasn’t the size I originally intended. If I tried the border again it would be a battle and it would potentially permanently distort the quilt. So I let it be. I basted my quilt sandwich and did straight lines to echo the chevrons in various colours and weights of thread.

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Then I thought I’d try something else that was new for me – Machine stitching the binding on. The result is ugly (so no close up photos) but I’m leaving it be. This is a finish. It is not perfect; I would change many things if I did it again. However, it is physical evidence of learning and it is functional. No one said all quilts have to be the best we can do. Sometimes they just have to be evidence that we tried.

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Notice the terracotta carpet? Bleugh! However, the room is infinitely nicer now that the walls aren’t orange and cream. It’s one of my favourite rooms in the house now. Amazing what some paint and some fabric can do

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Childhood

At the Uttoxeter quilt show a couple of years ago I picked up a Flower Fairies alphabet panel. I’ve always loved the artwork of the flower fairies books and the panel just really appealed to me.

As I think so many of us do, I carefully placed the fabric safely in my stash and there it sat. Waiting…

Eventually I was in the mood to be selfish and do something just for me, just because I could enjoy it and it would make me happy.

I took out my flower fairies panel, cut it up, and added wonky red borders from fabric in my stash to each letter. I then put it back in the cupboard to wait again…

This time it only took me a few weeks to work out what I wanted the border to look like. I ordered some golden yellow fabric, added a simple border and then made up my quilt sandwich and quilted with an all over dogwood design.

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I got the idea for this quilting pattern from Elizabeth Hartman’s Oh Frannson blog. I’ve used it a couple of times now and I really love how simple it is to do but how effective it looks. Much nicer than meandering all over a quilt.

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Finally, I made a quilt label that reflected the mood I was in and what I needed this quilt to do for me. I made the quilt during a stressful time at work. It now hangs in my office to remind me that I can let go and just have fun every now and then. Quilt therapy at its finest!IMG_0635