Saturday, 20 January 2018

Giant Four-patch Star



Hello again, and my first finish for the New Year.  I can't quite believe I am actually posting without making excuses or apologies for lack of progress.  I have worked hard on my quilting this past couple of weeks, and have some other finishes in the pipeline which should be ready for next week - so look out for further posts!



Really glad to be able to share this finish with you today.  Thank goodness I stitched down the binding yesterday and took the photos when it was frosty and sunny: today has been dreary, rained all day and generally miserable weather.  Still it's a reminder to make the most of the good days of winter, and gives me an excuse to stay in today and sew/blog.



So here is my Giant Four-patch Star, based on Carrie Nelson's design in her book, Schnibbles Times Two  as I mentioned in this post (she calls her quilt Plan C).  Carrie's patterns are intended to be made with Charm packs or Layer Cakes but I used fat quarters, made the quilt a bit bigger and left off the border.





I made most of the blocks for this quilt some years ago and then it languished (as so many of my quilts do when the first fit of enthusiasm has worn off and another project jumps into my mind).  I started to finish it back in September last year (see this post) when I was having one of my periodic purges of WIPs.  It didn't take long to put the blocks together, but then the question which so often derails my progress: how to quilt it.  (The other awkward question is usually, do I have a backing? but thankfully this time the answer to that was 'yes').

In the end I went with my walking foot and straight line quilting to emphasis the diagonals in the shape and flow of the stars across the quilt and to provide a counterpoint to the squares.  I am pleased with the resulting crosshatch in the centre of the stars and the overall density and texture (haven't washed the quilt yet but I think it will look even better when it crinkles).



This is quite a large quilt: the squares are 4" finished so the star blocks finish at 16".  Quilt measures 64" x 86".



The red spotty backing is a lively contrast.  I am slightly nervous but a Sevenberry fabric shouldn't run (should it?) and I did try a spot test on a scrap which seemed OK.  I shall put lots of colour catchers in the machine when I do wash it though.  I guess I shouldn't have been in such a hurry to layer and quilt: red is always a slightly unreliable dye.


 So here's the last shot and a link to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.


Finally, some tulips to turn our thoughts towards Spring on a dreary January day.  Hope you have a lovely weekend.


Friday, 12 January 2018

Beautiful baskets



For Finish it up Friday's link up at Crazy Mom Quilts I am showing you photos of the baskets Miriam, Sophie and I made just before Christmas and which I have only now got around to photographing.



We used the free One hour basket Tutorial (available here) and chose Bosal In-R-Form for the 'wadding': it is a bit too bouncy really to be referred to as wadding in my view, but it does give a firm structure, and as the girls wanted their baskets for storing their fabric collection it was a good choice.  As you will see from the photos it really helps the baskets to hold their shape.  


Despite its bulk, the foam was easy to stitch through with a regular needle and ordinary machine foot, and I am about to order some more so we can make a few more baskets in other delicious fabric combinations to brighten up our sewing areas.


We tweaked the pattern slightly as some of our fat quarters were on the skinny side: read through the instructions first and measure your lining FQ.  If it is a little shy of 21" deep ie top to bottom, you will need to reduce the height of the side panels slightly for both inner and outer.  I think mine ended up being 9 1/4" whereas Miriam managed to get 10 1/2" for hers.  The difference isn't particularly noticeable in the finished baskets.


We did use lightweight interfacing to reinforce the lining fabric (I tend to do this for all my bags and pouches as quilting fabric on its own is a little thin for such articles).  You will see that some of the  basket handles stand up better than others so next time we will probably include a bit of interfacing in the handle pieces.  


Here the fabric has been beautifully arranged by the girls, and I hope you will see it all find its way into quilts this year.


Have fun this weekend if you are planning a spot of fabric stroking, or even sewing.  If you have a spare hour you could make a basket!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

2018 - WIP roundup and a new start, again



Having failed to post a sign-out for 2017, here I am signing in for 2018 and wishing you a Happy New Year nearly two weeks after the event. I hope you all had a happy and peaceful Christmas, if not a totally restful one: we had a full house with elder son back from USA and younger one home from university.  I had forgotten just how much food is required when cooking for five and how much washing up there is!

It was lovely to have all my kids at home for a while, despite them rushing about a lot catching up with friends, and everything piled up to make room for extra beds etc.  Now the decorations are down and we are slowly getting straightened out, as I am sure you are too.  Not quite time for Spring cleaning but some re-ordering required.  There are some great posts out there about re-organising one's sewing space (I wish) and it is such fun to peek at other people's domestic arrangements: try this one from Amy Smart which includes a few other links to inspiring and organised quilters and lots of lovely photos.

It always takes me a while to pick up the threads, both literally and metaphorically, and get back into sewing, especially as my NY Resolutions this year include tackling some DIY and redecoration.  Our family bathroom is first on the list, but I struggle with having to make so many decisions at once: I think I love making quilts because one can change one's mind relatively easily along the way and allow the project to evolve, whereas the plumber has to know exactly what is required before he starts....

Anyway time to focus on sewing and where I am with my many WIPS.  I am not going to make a list here as that is just TOO depressing and quite boring for you.  My aim is to focus on just one thing at a time and to use this blog to set some deadlines so that I stand at least some chance of finishing at least a few of the  projects.  Then I can show you photos of completed quilts which hopefully will be much more interesting for all of us!


Apologies for the poor quality of the photos: damp and dreary outside and nowhere indoors with good enough light to get a decent photo of the whole quilt.


So the first thing I am concentrating on is quilting my giant Four-patch Star which I mentioned briefly in this post.  So far I have put in most of the long diagonal quilting lines, but I have been procrastinating over how to fill the spaces in between.  I think I have finally decided so watch this space for my first proper finish of 2018.... (though I am planning a sneaky Friday finish post for tomorrow).



I have three other quilts layered and ready to quilt and need to prioritise completing them in January (or what's left of it) as they have been in this state for several months.  Do you find that half the battle is actually deciding how you want to quilt a finished top?  I think this is why I am so much better piecing and so much more interested in starting something new, than in finishing a quilt.  If I have a clear vision early on about how to quilt a project I am far more likely to maintain momentum right through to a finish.

Maybe that should be my resolution for 2018: spend a little time really studying options for quilting and plan ahead while piecing the top so that I am in a position to make a decision quickly and get on with finishing. After all, it's not a quilt till it's quilted, and realistically I am never going to be able to hand quilt all the quilts I make.  I absolutely love the look of handquilting but at the moment it is just not an option.


Immediately before Christmas I really did not have much opportunity to sew (and over the holiday none at all, needless to say) but back in the distant days of early December I had an urge to 'tidy up' my scraps and do some relatively mindless sewing whenever time allowed.  In many ways this is my favourite sort of quiltmaking: to start with a muddle of strips which would otherwise go into the bin, and to make something useful and, hopefully, if not beautiful, then at least pleasing to the eye and heart.


Some time ago I had cleaned up my cupboard and cut all my odd scraps of calico (quilter's muslin to our American friends) into 2" and 1 1/2" strips and stored them neatly in a plastic box.  I had done the same with ends of yardage left over from previous quilts.  I have had in mind for a long time to make a quilt from one of Bonnie Hunter's marvellous books of scrap quilts.  I will show you which one when I have made the next part of the quilt, but for now here are the chequerboard borders in progress.  Feeling smug because I have split/opened the seam allowances to get a flatter finish: a bit fiddly but worth it in the long run.


And as if that wasn't enough to be going on with I had the urge to tame my neutrals too.  Here is what I started with:



Chain piecing and general mess making in progress:


And a neat pile of trimmed blocks to show for it.  This quilt is going to be similar to this one of Amanda Jean's from her book, No Scrap Left Behind, which is based on traditional string quilts.  Amanda Jean offered instructions as part of a quilt-along last year in June, which is also the name of her quilt!  There are photos of some really old examples of this quilt pattern if you look on Pinterest as well as newer versions, and it's a great way of using scraps without having a paper foundation to tear out at the end of the process.


It's fine if the scraps don't have parallel edges - I like the variety it gives to have some irregularity.  Using only neutrals was a fascinating experience as it is amazing the range of 'colour' there is in neutrals, and how one really starts to notice the detail in low-volume fabric which doesn't normally clamour for one's attention!  How about reviewing your scraps in 2018 and making something useful and beautiful out of 'nothing'?



Friday, 10 November 2017

Show and Tell

At last, a chance to sit down and write a post.  Another month has passed and so much has happened.  I have been away twice, to Wales and to Scotland, and have spent the whole of the past week on admin when I would much rather have been sewing.

Still, I can show you lots of photos, even if not all my work.  My young students have been coming to me once a week for over a year and I am pleased to be able to show you their recent finished projects.

Here are Miriam's matched pair of cushions, her first commission; the brief was blue and white with some red, for a holiday cottage, and I think these fit the bill perfectly.


Since they each made their first full size quilt back in the early summer (see this post), the girls have been working on a variety of small blocks.  They chose the ones they liked best from the 3" blocks I have made for the 365 Challenge (which still isn't finished, alas - I have rather gone off the boil).

The idea was to grow their skills by making sampler blocks but without having to make another big quilt just yet.  So they started off just making a few of each sort of block from the ten or so designs they had chosen without any very clear idea of what they would do with the blocks.  



They had a chance to try different ways of colouring the same designs to achieve a completely different look, so it was a good way to learn how important value and contrast are in patchwork.  Because the blocks were small and relatively quick to make it stayed a fun project, and it was OK to abandon the ones which didn't work so well as not much fabric was 'wasted'.

As the weeks went by the question became, what do you want to do with all the cute little blocks?

And here's the answer - Sophie made a cover for her sewing machine with her forty five blocks (displayed here on my machine, there is a row you cannot see very well along the top):
 


Sophie fussy cut and matched the end panels  and quilted them to increase stability.  She then finished the external seams with white binding to match the narrow sashing between the blocks.


Miriam made a capacious bag for all her sewing stuff with forty 3" blocks and chose a really jazzy fabric for the lining, sides and handles which pulls the colours in the blocks together:




I hope you agree, both projects are a great success and have developed their skills both in accurate block making and in construction of useful items.  I am really proud of them both and so enjoy their lively company on a Friday afternoon.  Next project?  Miles of rainbow bunting: stay tuned...

And now for some holiday snaps and my finish for Finish it up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts.  
We had a week's holiday in Wales early in September, in a cottage in a quiet valley near Abergavenny.  



This was the owners' house, a traditional Welsh farmhouse dating back to the 16th century.  We stayed in The Old Stable next door: you can just see the wall in the corner of the photo.

It is not an area we have previously visited and we loved the hills and tranquillity, just what we needed at the time.  Apart from walking every day we just pottered around, and enjoyed the peace and quiet.  

I hand sewed the binding on this small quilt made from spare HSTs which had been kicking around for ages (mentioned in the second half of this post).



Simply quilted and hung on the door of The Old Stable, it's good to have a finish, however small.  Better than a bag of bits in the cupboard anyway.


Hope your weekend allows you time to work on what you enjoy.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Update

Well, what a month it has been.  The day after my last blogpost, a month ago today, my dear mum-in-law died peacefully and not unexpectedly, just three weeks short of her 90th birthday.  She had patiently endured poor health for over a decade, and had lived long and been much loved, but it is still sad that her always kind and encouraging presence has gone from our lives.

The past month has been as you might imagine, but we are now getting back on track and I even managed some sewing yesterday.  I still have a backlog of photos from the summer to share with you, so hope to start posting again regularly soon.  I was going to share some pictures today but I find that my dear husband, who has gone abroad for work this week, has taken the gadget I need to be able to transfer pics from my camera to the computer (yes, stone age technology still rules in our house).

So thank you for bearing with yet another period of silence and a few more days of 'visual silence'.  I hope to make it up to you later with a feast of photos!  Meanwhile I wish you joy in your quilting endeavours and happiness in your home life.
Alison

Saturday, 9 September 2017

September WIP roundup (Part 2) and a finish

Life getting in the way of good intentions, as usual. Here are glimpses of a couple of other quilt tops I have managed to get together over the past few weeks - I'm going to be doing lots of quilting soon!

First, a large top made with an old American Jane collection (sorry, can't remember which one) with some pin dots included.  The pattern,which I am calling Four patch Star (for my benefit: it's becoming harder to remember which quilt is which...), is from Carrie Nelson's book Schnibbles Times Two.  As usual I have fiddled with the design and made it bigger so it is rectangular rather than square.



I used fat quarters rather than the layer cakes the pattern is designed for, and I have also skipped the borders, and plan to quilt diagonal lines with the walking foot right to the edge.  The blocks are large, 16" square as each four patch measures 8" x 8".


Backing fabric is this fab red polka dot by Sevenberry - not what I originally intended but it spoke, nay, shouted at me as I rummaged through stash. I took a bit of care lining up the dots when joining the two lengths for the backing: not perfect but not too bad and worth the extra pinning!



I will try and get this one layered as soon as I can clear the dining room table of all my paperwork/start of the year admin. Even though I no longer have kids at school this always seems to me to be the start of the year after the change of pace over the summer; I wake up and try and achieve as much as possible before Christmas appears on the horizon and stuff has to be abandoned till January - my second chance to start the year!



Although they are not together yet I have made the large bonus triangles (cut off when making the flying geese units for the Four patch stars) into pinwheels.  I made a few extra pinwheels with a Charm pack of Bread'N'Butter, a more recent American Jane collection, so now I have 42 seven inch blocks.  I fancy setting them with spotty sashing as per this quilt by Red Pepper Quilts, but I need to go out and find the right spot, as I don't have enough of this Sevenberry spot.



The other quilt top which I am pleased to have got together as it has been lying around for even longer, is this one which I am calling Kaffe Fassett Nine patch on point; again, a descriptive rather than an inspired choice of name!



I have a large amount of KF fabric in my stash, acquired quite a few years ago, but part of me is too scared to use it.  I do like the fabrics still; I just feel I should be a bit cleverer or more arty in order to use them effectively....  I also have several KF books, though not the more recent ones.  Time I pushed myself out of my comfort zone in this regard too.  I don't have a backing fabric for this top yet so it may be a while before I show you more of it, but at least it has progressed to the next level.



Finally to my small finish: I managed the not very great task of layering and quilting the small quilt/table topper I showed you in the last post. And last night I stitched the binding down - I used 2" strips for a skinny doublefold binding as it seemed more in proportion to such a small quilt.  

The quilting is just in the ditch, concentric squares every other row: enough to anchor but not to distract from all the little pieces.  Backing and binding from stash.  Linking to Finish it up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts.  Love the backpack she made.

Monday, 4 September 2017

September WIP roundup (Part 1)



Happy September to you all and back to school/college/university/work.  I am appalled to see that it is over a month since I blogged - where did August go? I have written lots of posts in my head but totally failed to get down to actually hammering the keyboard to share my sewing activities. Apologies and I promise to try harder this term!

So much has been happening recently that I think I will probably break the posts down in to smaller chunks for easier digestion.  Bear with me while we see how it goes. I think I will work backwards to give my memory a chance to recover!

I have been away a few times this month on sewing related treats so I have come back energised and inspired to tackle some new projects, but especially to finish and clear away some old ones; so this week just past has involved digging out a number of WIPs.

I still have the quilting to do but I have managed to get the following tops together:



In reverse order, this was last night's little treasure, a mini version of a quilt in Edyta Sitar's book Friendship Triangles (it still needs a final pressing). I had the trimmed off triangles from a large Thimbleberries quilt stitched together but screwed up in a bag.  After pressing they looked like this, 



and after trimming to 1 1/2" they looked like this. [Please excuse colour cast from camera flash as I took this photo at night].



I played around with the layout but had always been attracted to Edyta's design, Medallion Quilt which is made with 420 x 2" (finished size) half square triangles; her quilt has quite wide borders and measures 59" square.



My 'quilt' is made with what I had leftover which is 184 x 1" (finished) HSTs plus a few neutral triangles to fill in the gaps and make a straight edge. It measures 15" square.  I debated whether or not to add a border and have decided not to, so it is just waiting to be layered and quilted: hardly a massive job! 

My only other comments are that the trimming was well worth it in terms of getting all the points to match, and as well as my Bloc_loc ruler I gave thanks for my tank steam iron and Best Press spray which flattened out all the seams - so bulky in proportion to such small units. 

Here are the before and after photos for one of the quarter segments.







This next top is a little bigger, measuring 27 1/2" x 31 1/2" and was made from a bundle of offcut triangles and strips from a large quilt I made many years ago, which I am embarrassed to report is lying layered and machine basted upstairs, waiting to be handquilted.


I managed to trim the HSTs to 2 1/2" square and there were enough for thirty 4" (finished) blocks of 4 matching HSTs, set 5 blocks x 6, with 3" wide borders cut from the remaining 2 1/2" strips. I thought this block was called Birds in the Air or Flock of Birds but I haven't so far managed to confirm that: anyone out there know?


Backing and inner border/binding from stash plus a wadding offcut means a small 'free' quilt for someone out of a sad plastic bag of bits. My favourite kind of sewing as I feel thrifty and that I am tidying up at the same time as making a mess!



That's all for now. Hoping to post again tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who drops in to look at this blog from time to time - I met some of you at the Fabric Fayre in Great Bookham the Bank Holiday weekend and it was so good to catch up. Keep on quilting!