Sunday, 11 March 2018

Update on January - before March is over!

Warning: picture heavy post!

Hi there!  I have been a bit preoccupied with various things recently and realise that I haven't posted about a couple of quilts I finished in January.  As February March races away (thank goodness: we have just had snow and very cold temperatures, for the UK), I thought I should record the rest of January's work.

I went a bit mad in January to be honest, as the weather was mostly miserable, and I know that there will be a ton of stuff to do in the garden which will take priority in March/April.  I didn't let myself do any piecing at all but layered several quilts and concentrated just on the quilting.

As it is such a major effort to clear the dining room table to lay out quilt tops, I have found that layering  several quilts at a time works well.  It is not my favourite part of quiltmaking as it always seems as though one is spending a lot of time not actually sewing, after allowing for all the measuring, joining the backing, pressing, de-threading, and finally, layering, plus I often mark any straight quilting lines at this stage with a Hera marker.

End result was that I managed to complete four quilts in January, two already blogged and the two I am showing you now.  I also did most of the quilting on another quilt but have got stuck on how to quilt a couple of areas - till inspiration strikes that one is still a UFO.

It may sound good but I am ashamed at how long these quilt tops have been lying around in the UFO pile.  I did manage to buy the backing fabric in the summer when I was at Cowslip Workshops.  The gray taupe cost an arm and a leg as woven taupes always do, but it is gorgeous and I did want it.  However I offset the cost by managing to get the backing for the Disappearing Hourglass in their sale!

So first up is the Gray Taupe:

I made most of the blocks for this quilt when I did a class several years ago with the lovely Jo Colwill at Cowslip, my favourite place to visit in the South West. In the past I always managed to wangle a visit if we were holidaying in Cornwall when the kids were small; this year we will be holidaying in Cornwall (without the kids) just so I can do a couple more workshops there!

Anyway, as so often happens the blocks lay there while I tried to decide on a layout (and got distracted by other projects and life in general). I put them together eventually and then didn't get any further for want of a backing fabric. Turning out cupboards caused the top to reappear and I took it with me to Cornwall in the summer and bought the backing. A few more months on and it is finally finished - hooray!

The quilting didn't take all that long once I got down to it. I knew I wanted to do concentric parallel lines with the walking foot and it's not too big a quilt to wrestle through the machine.

This quilt measures 64"x 82" and came about because I had accumulated an awful lot of taupe fat quarters over the years when I worked in a quilt shop.  I have used many of the medium tones in other projects, and was left with the lights and with darks in the blue/grey palette. I therefore chose a block pattern and setting which would make the most of the contrast in value.

The individual blocks measure 4" finished and there 320 blocks (gosh, that sounds a lot!) which are set 16 x 20. The block is made up of a dark large triangle, a dark square and two small light triangles. The block is called 'Review' in Marsha McCloskey's book Block Party, but I think it may also go by the name of Grandmother's Choice or something similar.  As so often in quilting, old blocks accumulate many names.

Yes, thanks to the power of the internet, I have just done a quick search and found lots of images for Grandmother's Choice.  Like Log Cabin, it is a half and half block in design terms - half dark, half light, so can be arranged in many different ways.

Now for something which I thought was completely different but actually I see definite similarities: here is another quilt which relies on good contrast for its design to read clearly, and although scrappy it is essentially a monochrome quilt.  Well, they make quite good partners for this post, don't they?

This is my version of the Disappearing Hourglass quilt for which you can get a tutorial from Missouri Star Quilts online.  I made a floral version back in 2015: you can see those posts here and here (second half of post contains my tips for making the blocks).

As I said in the earlier post, I don't like the method for making half square triangles which that tutorial uses as it results in bias edges on the outside of all the HSTs.  With a technique which involves cutting and restitching as this does, it seems to me to be asking for trouble, and I would recommend that you make your HSTs by conventional methods which keep the bias seam on the diagonal and safely stitched into the block.

It seems I was making the blocks for this little quilt back in October 2016 (here) so not quite as old a WIP as many of my projects...

This quilt measures 49" x 57" and there are 56 seven inch blocks set 7 x 8.  As with the floral version, I first of all ditch quilted the blocks with a walking foot, but as much as possible I wanted to avoid the seam allowances and bumpy intersections.  Using the points of the stars as a guide, the additional straight lines frame the stars and create an irregular grid across the surface.

The backing fabric I absolutely love: I have lost the selvage but I think it was part of a Di Ford collection, and it has that quirky 19th century look about it.  The colours were a perfect match for the FQ collection I used for the blocks, bought quite a while ago from Patchwork Cabin, my LQS which specialises in reproduction fabrics.  It was by Barbara Brackman for Moda but I can't remember what the fabric line was called.  The only selvage I have is for a blue equivalent to the red fabric in the photo above; it's labelled 'Cornshuck Hat 1850-1874' which I include for curiosity value!

The binding was made from the offcuts of a backing for another quilt (shown here): so satisfying when that happens.  I had almost enough, and used a scrap of one of the FQs left to fill the gap.

Right, enough photos - time for more sewing: there are still plenty of UFOs requiring attention!  Linking today (very belatedly) to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts (go and look at the beautiful Log Cabin top), though I did write this post on Friday: I just forgot to post it!  Hope you have had a productive and enjoyable weekend.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Tula Pink-tastic!

Such a miserable day today - it has rained non-stop and is cold too - so it is a pleasure to be writing about a much more colourful world than the one outside my window: the world of Tula Pink

I am sure lots of you will know all about Tula already, after all she has been designing fabric for twelve years and has just brought out her 25th fabric collection.  Ask me how I know this, and I will tell you that ten days ago I attended a lecture by Tula at Denbies Wine Estate which was organised by The Quilt Room in Dorking.

I didn't know at all what to expect as I knew something of Tula's fabrics but wouldn't have classed myself as a fan particularly.  However I was completely won over by Tula's warm personality and sense of humour, and the generous way in which she shared some of her history, process and approach to designing fabric and making quilts.  

Actually that's what won me over right from the start - the fact that she told us she sews every day, often for 6-8 hours, and that she makes all her own quilts, partly because she loves to sew, but also because she then knows how the fabric works when it is cut up.  The whole room responded to this - we were clearly all quilting addicts and recognised a kindred spirit!

It is this information feedback loop wh Tula gets through sewing which she feels makes her a better designer, so we get even better fabric to use ourselves as a result of her dedication to her craft.  She also knows that, although she makes quilts which use a single fabric collection, we make our quilts from older stashed fabrics as well as new, so she takes care to ensure that fabrics from all her collections work together.

Another other useful design tip, which I shall be passing on to my perfectionist students, is that you are allowed to have bad ideas when you are trying to create.  Allow yourself time to get all the bad ideas out of the way (scribble all over the first page of your brand new sketchbook, so you don't have designer's block) and then the good ideas can come to the surface.

We learned so much about many aspects of the quilting industry as well as Tula's unique style.  If you ever get the chance to hear Tula speak or to take a class with her, I would urge you to sign up immediately.  It was a privilege to have been there and I would definitely call myself a fan now!

I am looking forward to buying Tula's new book which is a collaboration with Angela Walters: the piecing and the machine quilting look sublime!  So I have laid in a supply of Tula's new line called All Stars which includes 22 fabulous solids, and some glorious spots and stripes as well as some of the detailed prints for which she is famous.

Many thanks to Pam and Nicky at The Quilt Room for organising a great morning which had me buzzing with inspiring ideas all weekend.  And if you want to get your All Stars fabric in advance of everyone else, have a look on the Quilt Room's website or pop into the shop.  You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday 14 Feb: So sad, and rather shocked, to learn today (see this announcement) that Free Spirit Fabrics is ceasing to exist with pretty much immediate effect.  

I really hope that the talented designers including Tula Pink, but also Amy Butler and Kaffe Fassett, Anna Maria Horner and Denyse Schmidt, who have been with the company for a long time and who have produced such interesting, innovative and unusual fabrics over the years, find a new home so that they can continue to create and make their marvellous designs available to us.

Meanwhile, The Quilt Room does have bolts of All Stars and other Tula fabrics, buy now while stocks last!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Friday finish - Sampler Block Shuffle

Hi everyone - well into February already: how did that happen?

I managed to quilt and finish quite a few quilts in January (four, including the Giant Four-patch Star blogged here) but we have had such poor weather I have only just been able to photograph some of them for you.

As I am so far behind with things to show, there will be lots of photos in this post.  I hope it won't be too indigestible... here goes:

First of all, my Sampler Block Shuffle quilt from 6" block patterns supplied by Moda via the Fat Quarter Shop on a weekly basis back in 2015/16: here is the link to the patterns.  

Looking back through old posts I find that I last blogged about this project back in February 2016 (two whole years ago).  Here is the link if you are interested.  By that date I had made all the blocks except the two applique patterns (which I chose not to do), and as I had made extra blocks to try out  colour and value variations, I had 60 blocks altogether.

I am a little bit surprised to find that I didn't blog about putting the blocks together. The last few months of last year are a bit of a blur if I am honest, but I think that at some point last summer I must have decided it was high time I finished this project, as the blocks had spent the intervening 18 months 'resting' quietly!

What took time, as usual, was deciding how to set and finish the top.  I was pretty sure I wanted a straight set and narrow sashing, and that I wanted to make the flying geese border using scraps of all the fabrics to help visually tie the blocks together.  Sixty blocks weren't quite enough for a satisfying layout, so I made an extra four blocks (of the simpler designs, I wanted a finish before too much more time had elapsed, after all).  That gave me a nice square set, eight blocks by eight.

Eventually I decided on a 'barely there' sashing which wouldn't take attention away from the blocks or impose too grid-like a structure.  And I had the perfect neutral fabric in my stash, a narrow cream stripe, and also a good backing fabric, both earmarked for other projects, needless to say!  [Backing is Prairie Paisley II by Polly Minick and Lauri Simpson for Moda].  Binding was scrap, a very old soft green with random pink and blue speckles, but just right, I felt - hooray for being able to 'shop' one's scrap and stash!

I thought you might like to see how I made the flying geese: I used a paper foundation by the same company as makes Triangles on a Roll, as it was important that the geese didn't stretch since the borders would help to keep the quilt top straight and true.

The technique is basically stitch and flip but because you cut the pieces the right size first it is not wasteful.  Once you get the hang of where to stitch and where to fold, the length of perfect geese emerges quite quickly from under your sewing machine needle.  The slow part (joking!) is removing the paper foundation afterwards - tweezers really help with this task!

I made square in square corners from two pieces of flying geese foundation paper overlapped.  Not rocket science but I got a buzz from working that out.

The payoff came when I attached the geese borders to the top and they fitted perfectly.  So satisfying.  I got particular pleasure from this as I am famous for usually having to fudge or even bodge to get a good fit....

The quilt finished at 62" square.  You can see the quilting in the two closeup photos here: I did it all on my home sewing machine, putting the ditch lines in first and then the flowing design alternating in the blocks.  As the quilt isn't huge it wasn't too bad turning it and I got into a rhythm.

OK I think that's probably a long enough post.  Alfie certainly looks as though he has suffered enough.  Hope you have a good weekend and I am linking to Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday (even though it's now Saturday!).

The rest of the finishes and my current WIPS will have to follow, plus my recent Tula Pink experience - tantalising!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Grey January

Well, thoughts of Spring last week banished this week by rain, rain and more rain!  Shan't be sorry to see the last of January this year: I thought the old saying was 'February, fill dyke'?  Maybe there will be more rain to come, but let's hope for a few dry days so I can photograph and share my finishes.

I have been quilting mostly this month as I sorted out my WIPs and there were far too many tops finished but waiting to be quilted.  Actually, after putting off this final stage of the process for too long, I have found it really enjoyable to focus on finishing, and having the end of the month as a self-imposed deadline has been useful. 

I am not keen on deadlines but they do work, so I guess I should set a few more targets in my life and try not to get distracted by new fabric/ideas....

So here is a glimpse of what I have been quilting the past few days: more photos and info will follow next week, I hope.

I can share a small project finish though: here is a quilt-as-you-go thread catcher which I made last Friday using this tutorial from The Sewing Chick.  Very enjoyable and all from scrap, though the blue linen I used for the main part of the outside shifted like mad when quilting despite being spray basted.

It is larger than I had anticipated (mine came out slightly larger than the tutorial said), standing 5 1/2" tall and nearly 6" in diameter, so it will hold a LOT of threads!  But being so large means it will not tip over easily and it would make a useful basket for other things eg spools of thread, small tools, keys if you made one as a gift.

The tutorial is very clear and I definitely recommend you have a go.  If you have everything to hand and don't spend too long agonising over fabric choices (!) you can make it in a couple of hours.

So linking to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.  Good luck with your finishes this week.

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.