Hot/cold rice bags

A quick and easy finish today. With thoughts of getting ready for giving birth starting to loom in my mind I thought it might be useful to have a small stock of rice bags that could be quickly heated up in the microwave (or pulled out of the freezer) to provide topical heat or cold to provide comfort during early labour.

I used some of the leftover scraps of brushed cotton from Pip’s car seat blanket to make the outer covers for these bags. I love how soft these fabrics are so I thought it might be an added niceness for the bags when I’m feeling uncomfy. The bags are really scrappy, which I like. The sizes are also determined by the scrap pieces I had available. It was a real scrap happy project this one and just made me feel good.

I pieced together a single length of fabric with whatever scraps fit together and turned the two short edges over (with top stitching to finish the edges).

Then I turned the piece right side up and folded roughly 1.5″ over on one short end. I then brought the other end up to meet it.

All that’s then needed is to see down both sides and turn the right way out. I ended up making four slightly different sized covers.

I’m planning to add some aromatherapy oils to help with relaxation during labour. I love lavender so that will feature quite heavily as a relaxation aid. Clary Sage is also recommended as a labour aid so I’m going to try that too. I don’t actually know if I like the smell though because they recommend you avoid clary sage during pregnancy just in case it causes early labour. Each bag has a thin cotton lining that holds the rice. The brushed cotton outer is removable so it can be washed to remove the oil once I’m done with them. Sooner or later I’ll get to see how well they work and whether they help once the time comes.


Basting on the table

This week I added the final row of blocks to my sister’s postage stamp quilt. Each block is 16 little 2” squares of alternating light and dark fabrics in as many different colours as I could gather from my scrap bin. There were no new purchases for the top of this quilt at all (however the batting and backing were purchased specially – shh). While making this top it was really fun to look back and remember the stories of the experiments, successes and “okay, not doing that again”s that each fabric could tell.

It’s a big quilt top at 76 x 68”. When it was all pieced I just couldn’t quite face getting down on my knees for hours to baste it on the living room floor. (I think at 5months pregnant it’s ok to look for shortcuts here and there). So I decided to try using the dining room table. We have a heat protector and a vinyl table cloth on it so I was reasonably confident I could avoid sticking pins in my nice wooden table top.

The first third was easy. Just lay out and smooth the backing, layer the batting, and then add the top. I oriented everything to the top right corner because I knew I would have excess batting and backing to cut away and wanted to maximise the usability of the scraps.

Pin regularly. Here the postage stamp design was helpful to get regular pinning spots.

Once that portion had been pinned I trimmed the excess batting and backing leaving about 2” extra all around the top to allow for shifting during quilting. Then I grabbed a strong cardboard tube that I saved from a few years ago when I ordered some curtain fabric online. It has been sooooo useful over the years for rolling large quilts and once again it proved perfect for the job. I simply rolled the basted section up and then moved it across the table so I could start work smoothing the next quilt section.

Same process again… smooth the backing fabric. Bring the batting down on top of it and smooth that out too.

Then bring the top down and smooth that as well. Pin regularly.

And repeat for the final section.

Voila!! A pin pasted quilt without an aching back and knees. Success.

Now I know I’m taking a risk just pin pasting this. I could have thread basted it or added spray basting glue as I went. The table top method didn’t prevent this, my own laziness did. I’m (reasonably) confident that my quilting pattern will enable me to smooth as I go. My first line will be the long centre spine. Then I’ll be working my way out in lines every 4 inches (two squares) on one side so I can smooth outwards as I go. The advantage of pin basting is that you can reposition if you need to as you go along. Once one side is done I’ll come out from the centre spine on the other side in similar parallel lines, again smoothing as I go if needed. Finally I’ll add the perpendicular lines (again middle out to top and bottom edges) to complete the quilting. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Fingers crossed. 


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.

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.

Japanese Sampler – Sashiko Wave (Post 6)

My Japanese sample quilt is all about learning new techniques. Although I have done a fair bit of embroidery over the years I’ve never tried sashiko. Susan Briscoe‘s book has some lovely patterns for sashiko blocks. She also includes some helpful advice on techniques.

I didn’t use proper sashiko thread. I just used three strands of embroidery floss. It seemed to work fine. I haven’t seen any other sashiko work ‘in the flesh’ to compare it with so I might be way off, but I like my take on sashiko.


I’ve decided there will be quite a few sashiko blocks in my sampler quilt. I’m going to alternate them with pieced blocks. I’ll vary the colour of my thread between yellow, cream, orange and red to try the quilt a little coherence that might it lacking with so many fabrics being thrown in.

I don’t know about you but I’ve always struggled with how to transfer patterns from paper to my fabric. In the course of making this quilt I hit upon a technique that seems to work well for me. I made a full size paper pattern and pinned it in place on top of the fabric. Then I put a really fat denim needle in my machine and followed the template lines, sewing without any thread. This left a great trail of puncture marks I could then connect with tailor’s chalk and use as my sewing lines. I discovered that if I didn’t go over the puncture lines with chalk before I started stitching the fabric would slowly relax and my puncture marks would disappear. The chalk has enough staying power to wait until I’d finished stitching the sashiko blocks.

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.


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.


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.


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


You can never have enough teapots

This is still a very new blog and I am slowing adding posts about the quilts I have been making since I caught the quilting bug when I was at University. Today is my very first post about a new project. I’m very excited.

Before we start I should probably confess that I have a bit of a thing for teapots. Just see the post about my ‘time for tea’ quilt. Anyway, last weekend my husband and I walked into town for a gentle stroll. He caught me staring at a beautiful little tea pot in a shop window. It would be so so perfect for the lovely sewing room I’ll have when we move into our new home. Being the lovely man he is, he bought me the teapot, a little cup and a matching biscuit tray – yay!!!. He even carried the box home for me (though I think that was mainly so he could tease me by pretending to drop it or throw it into a tree every so often). Nevertheless, it made it home in one piece and here it is…


How perfect is that for a sewing room?

I don’t have my lovely new sewing room yet but that doesn’t stop me dreaming about it. I decided to make a heat resistant mat for my new tea set in advance of the actual sewing room. I picked out some sewing related fabrics I had hanging around from earlier projects, and chose a couple of marbled solids to complement them.


As it was going to be a mat for a tea set it obviously needed a teapot on it. Remembering my ‘time for tea’ quilt I chose one of the teapots from Kay Mackenzie’s Teapots 2 to appliqué book and set about using the back basting method of appliqué to create my teapot. If you haven’t tried back basting I can’t recommend it highly enough. So simple and so neat. I cannibalised an old pair of linen trousers for the background. I used a water soluble fabric pen to draw the outline of the teapot on the linen piece.


Then I roughly cut out bits of fabric that covered each portion of the teapot.


I then did a running stitch right along the marker lines. Small stitches are best so that you have lots of holes to follow later on. Once you’ve gone round a piece, trim the excess fabric so you just have enough to turn under (1/8 or 1/4 in should do it). In the picture below you can see my running stitch around the four bits of blue fabric.


It’s best to start with the outside pieces and appliqué all the edges that won’t be covered by another piece. To do the appliqué, you just unpick a few of the running stitches. Then turn the edge under with your needle. If you can see the marker line through the fabric then great, use that. If not, then use the tiny holes that the running stitch will have left in the fabric. Turn the top edge over until it’s holes are at the fold and make sure it is sitting on the holes in the backing fabric. A small hand whip stitch is all you need to fix the edge in place. You just work your way round the shape, unpicking the running stitch, turning the edge with the needle point and whip stitching it down.

With the teapot centre done I added a couple of borders in my sewing themed fabrics. I then lay out the backing fabric, a cheap nasty polyester batting scrap that needed using up, a layer of heat resistant batting and the top layer. The heat resistant batting is great. It has a thin layer of foil it in. I used it to make some table mats a while back and so the leftover was just right for this. I added the extra batting just to make it a bit sturdier and thicker than my table mats had been. I thread basted the sandwich every 2 inches because I was worried about something that thick wobbling about during quilting. I then casually quilted straight(ish) lines all over and bound it. Here is it…


Now that it’s finished I really not sure I made the best colour choices here. It might have been good to get the button fabric in the teapot somehow. But never mind, it’s finished, it’s neat enough, and it will go in my lovely new sewing room when we finally get our house.

I’m also linking up with Crazy mom quilts for the very first time after years of avidly looking at all the friday finishes. Amanda Jean’s blog was a big inspiration for starting mine so I’m delighted to be contributing to the Friday links myself at long last. Hi guys, welcome to my patchwork home