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. 

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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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

Coin purse experiments

Continuing my impromptu theme of handbag items I thought I’d have a go at making a small zipped coin purse so I don’t have loose change jangling around my newly organised handbag. I’ve had some success working with zips but I would by no means called it a mastered skill. The two attempts I’m blogging about here are unfortunate examples of ‘not-quite-good-enough’ syndrome, something I suspect lots of us suffer from.

Attempt One:
Noodlehead have a popular and detailed tutorial for making zipped pouches. I feel bad including a link to the tutorial for a post that is about my mistakes so I feel I need to emphasise that the problem was because I ignored the directions. I have every confidence that the tutorial would create a great pouch if followed correctly.

I attempted to downsize that pattern for my coin purse. Where I went wrong was in trying to include the zip in the seam allowance at one end to save space and keep the pouch small. As you can see from the photo below it just doesn’t sit tidy at that corner. The rest of it is fine though and it does work as a purse. It’s functional but not well constructed so doesn’t count as a finish for my 2015 tally.

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Attempt Two:
I thought I’d try a different strategy. I a little bit of web searching I came across a funky pyramid shaped purse tutorial. There are a couple of versions knocking around blogland but I based mine on these two tutorials.
1. Sew me something good
2. Jill Shepherd

I sort of guessed at a 6″ square as a size and then a 4″ zip as recommended. It was quick fun and easy to put together.

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It looks ok. It a bit floppy so I think that interfacing, or a quilted exterior fabric would help. More fundamentally, the size is just not right and the zip is too small relative to the rest of the pouch. I have no idea what I’m going to use this for but it’s not going to be my coin purse. I will claim it as finish #7 for 2015 though.

I guess more practicing is required here. Fun though

I think that for now this concludes my small foray into handbag accessories. But if you have any ideas for other items I should try and make just leave a comment and I’ll have a go

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Lined drawstring pouches (finishes #4 &#5)

To go with my new laptop sleeve I wanted to make a small pouch to hold my charger and associated cables. I used this really helpful tutorial by Jeni Baker at ‘In color order’ but sort of made the size up myself.

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Once I’d made one I could see why Jeni had added the accent fabric; it really added some class to the pouch. So I made a larger pouch just to be a useful ‘bag-in-a-bag’. I think it will be handy when I have a wet umbrella to keep separate from other bits and pieces in my bag.

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I really should learn just to follow tutorials. Once again I kind of made up the sizes and I made the channel for the ribbon much narrower than the tutorial specified. It works but it doesn’t flow as easily as it could.

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Laptop sleeve (2015 finish #3)

My sister bought me a lovely new handbag for Christmas.

Handbag

It’s perfect as a bag for work because I can fit my laptop and all other stuff in easily without looking like a student. However, it’s a little larger than my previous handbag so I was a bit worried about my laptop banging about and getting damaged. My third finish this year (and my third made totally from existing stash fabrics!!!!) is a fleece lined sleeve to protect my laptop when on the move.

Laptop sleeve

 

Simple, quick (ignoring the fact that I totally measured it wrong and had make the entire thing again), and oh so useful. Winner!!

I used it yesterday but forgot to take my charger with me -d’oh! So, task for next week is to make a co-ordinating pouch to hold computer cables. I wonder how far I can go on this theme of bags to go in my handbag? Any suggestions