Monday, 6 April 2020

April achievements: Ohio Star and Log Cabin Squares

Hi again.  Happy to show you today the two quilts I have finished in the past couple of weeks.  The quilting was mostly done in March but it took me a while to handstitch the binding on.

Both quilts were pieced some time last year (though I have continued to make Log Cabin squares since January (see latter part of this post), for my second version of this quilt).

The little Ohio Star was inspired by a quilt in  book by Jo Morton, but I wanted to do a different border.  It took a while before I settled on sawtooth-set HSTs which I made from all the scraps using Triangles on a Roll paper foundation for accuracy.  I love the paper method if I have a lot of HSTs to make, as it saves all that tedious trimming.

I have included these pictures of the unquilted top as the warmth of the afternoon sun today has given a slightly yellowish cast to my photos of the completed quilt.  The neutrals are really a whitish cream.   The blue fabrics in the stars were left overs from my Indigo Dreams quilt, being mostly from a line of reproduction indigoes by Harriet Harman bought and stashed many years ago (the fabric was dated 2002!) and I finished my indigo quilt in 2014...been hoarding the scraps ever since.

The quilt measures 55" x 64".  There are thirty blocks, set in 6 rows of 5 blocks.  The blocks measure 6" finished, with the hourglass units finishing at 2".  The sawtooth border is made up of one hundred and twenty eight 1 1/2" finished size HSTs and there is a final indigo border which I cut at 5"from the fabric left over from backing my North Wind quilt.  The binding is a solid navy from my stash.

On the back of the quilt I used a navy and white large floral which I had in my stash, bought for another project, never realised.  I decided to take the plunge and use a light backing to link to the light stars on the front of the quilt.  I would usually have gone dark and played safe, but I am very glad I didn't as I feel the large light floral was the right choice on this occasion.

The mustard for the alternate blocks was also a 'brave' choice, outside my comfort zone but inspired by Jo Morton's use of that colour in her traditional quilts.  I had the fabric in my stash so I must have liked it all those years ago - but hadn't dared use it, until now!  The alternate block made the star blocks go further, but also avoided lumpy seams and brought another dimension to the quilt which would have been missing if I had stuck to all-blue.

Because of the mustard I quilted with gold thread.  Cream would have sat better on the stars but was too bright for the indigo.  My quilting is straight lines with a walking foot for simplicity and across the blocks to avoid ditch stitching.  In the borders I quilted hourglass shapes to echo the block design.

The hourglass blocks which make the Ohio Star points were trimmed to be as accurate as possible, which in turn meant that the blocks went together really precisely.  I love Ohio Star set on point (less keen when it is straight set - I prefer the proportions of Sawtooth Star in that orientation).

I hope to teach this little quilt when my LQS returns to normal service in due course.  At the moment, who knows the time frame, so I am getting up to date by completing WIPs and writing class instructions.  I have also had a fun time chain piecing and will post a tutorial tomorrow for simple Log Cabin blocks of the conventional light/dark type.

Which brings me to the Log Cabin variation which for me is such a happy quilt.  Which is probably why I have gone a bit mad with pictures....

I made this first bright version last year and got the blocks together after our holiday in September (see latter part of this post).  I had previously (gosh, in 2017!) made a version in country colours which I also enjoyed, and I think it is safe to say that I am addicted to making these little blocks.

Each one gives you a chance to play around with colour and print on a small scale: the centres are cut at 2 1/2" square and the strips are cut at 1" (yes, one inch!) so each round finishes at only 1/2".  The blocks finish at 5".

The quilt measures 65" x 80" which is a good size for a double bed.  There are 208 blocks set 13 x 16.  This may sound like an impossibly large number of blocks to make, but believe me when I say I already have almost as many again, so expect another iteration of this quilt before too long!  

They are fairly quick to assemble if you make yourself a production line, by cutting strips to size then chain piecing and pressing in batches.  And this quilt is all made from scraps - so satisfying, and economical when you consider the price of fabric.  You have paid for all these scraps, so use them!


So why not trawl through your scraps and leftovers from other projects, and have a go at making some little Log Cabin variation blocks?  If you are stuck at home without easy access to a quilt shop, you could make a virtue of necessity and use what you already have to produce something gorgeous and comforting.

For backing I used a soft yellow floral which I had in my stash, having bought it in a sale.  Again, yellow isn't really one of my colours, but I was drawn to it for this sunny quilt.  

The quilting is very simple - diagonal lines though the blocks using a walking foot.  There is so much going on in this quilt that elaborate quilting would be wasted.  I used my favourite light cream quilting thread from Mettler.  It goes with almost anything and doesn't draw attention to itself.

I used up lots of leftover pieces of bright binding from other projects.  With strips joined on the bias, I think an intentionally scrappy binding becomes something rather special.

Whatever is happening with you and your family at this worrying time for the whole world, I hope you will stay safe and well, and allow yourself some comfort and distraction by sewing.
With all good wishes, 

Monday, 30 March 2020

March update - quite a month...

Hello everyone,
Well, when I last posted I doubt we could have predicted just what the past four weeks have brought to many places in the world.  

My younger son had just come back from a month walking in New Zealand, the farthest place he has ever visited and a great adventure; he then started work for the first time, and suddenly all plans for the foreseeable are on hold....

I was ill two weeks ago, I am assuming with Covid-19 though cannot be absolutely sure at this stage. I am now well and back to sewing, but staying at home, like everyone else.  Sewing is a great pleasure and good resource when everything else in life shuts down, and I hope you too are managing to find solace and pass the time with needle and thread.

So here are some of the various WIPs I managed to progress in February, and the part of March when I have been able to sew.  Many of the WIPs were well advanced and did not need all that much work to complete them, so I have not turned into sewing superwoman in recent weeks.

First is a finished baby quilt: the block is known as Waterwheel, and I made a bigger version many years ago.  This time I wanted to see if I could make it from Charm squares so I made the block smaller, 6 inches finished, strips cut at 1 1/2 inches.  You need two identical Charm packs and some background fabric to make this little quilt.  I used Later Alligator by Sandy Gervais for Moda which is bright and cheerful.

Here is a picture of the back: the block looks more complicated than it actually is to make, but I love how the pressing works to help everything fit together neatly.  You will see I have done my favourite trick of spinning the seam allowances in the centre of the blocks for flat middles.  This really helps when you come to do the quilting.

On the back I put a Riley Blake multi spot in flannel: the fabric pulls together all the colours on the front and is cosy too!  The quilt measures 39 inches square.  Thirty six blocks set 6 x 6 with a 2 1/2 inch plain border to float the blocks.  Bound in a red Linea print from stash.

Regarding the quilting, this is one of the fun parts.  I am not the world's greatest machine quilter, as I have mentioned in the past, but this design is straightforward to do with a walking foot.  A smallish quilt like this is easy to turn under the machine, and there are shortcuts which help to minimise the number of turns and ends to tie in.

Definitely worth having a go as the quilting really enhances the positive and negative spaces within the design.

The other finish is a top which I put together and layered a couple of years ago.  It is a bigger version of the Oakshott Little Boxes which I made here.  I am ashamed really that I did not finish it off ages ago, as the quilting didn't take all that long in the end (I just got distracted by other projects, the story of my life...).  But I am pleased it is now done and I can enjoy the finished product.

I loved working with the Oakshott fabrics and some stripes which may or may not have been an old Oakshott line.  Stripes are ideal for showing off partial seaming (Tutorial in the post already referred to if you fancy having a go).

I was very organised and cut my pieces in advance so it was a real pleasure to sit at the sewing machine and select the colours for each block as I went along - chain piecing, of course!

Here are a few of the finished blocks which measure 5 inches finished.  I tried to pair the fabrics so the solid colour related to one of the colours in the stripe, whether to co-ordinate or to contrast: great fun. 

I kept the quilting quite simple this time (more complex in the smaller, first quilt) as I didn't want to distract from the linear, boxy design.  I used a variegated Guterman thread which I had to hand.

The quilt measures approximately 58" x 78".  There are 165 blocks, set 11 x 15.

 You can see that I used up a lot of my surplus fabrics on the back (14 inch squares), and bound the quilt in a shot cotton I had to hand in sufficient quantity.  It is a fairly neutral colour so hopefully doesn't distract from the colours in the quilt.

I have also quilted two other tops recently but haven't quite finished stitching down the binding so will not show you photos just yet.  My main achievement before getting ill was to send off a quilt for a magazine, and again that one will have to wait.  Amazing what a real deadline makes you do!

Anyway that's enough from me for now.  I hope you stay safe and well in these difficult weeks when we all have to adjust to a new way of being, for the time being at least.  I hope you will enjoy some peaceful sewing time as a distraction from your worries.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Facet by Fassett

Hello everyone,
It has been a very wet February - it feels as though it has rained every day this month and there has been significant flooding in parts of England.  No chance to garden means I have had more time to spend sewing...

I went a little mad this month as I know that when the weather improves there will be tons to do outside.  My priority has been to finish some WIPs which were long overdue some attention.  Some of them date back more years than I care to remember.

However the weather has been so bad I haven't had a chance to get photos of those recently finished tops, so here are pictures of a quilt I finished just before Christmas, in time to gift it to a friend for his birthday:

The quilt is Facet from Kaffe Fassett's book 'Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts'.  I had wanted to make this quilt for so long as I have been a hoarder of KF fabrics for years, though always a little daunted about using them. 

I honestly cannot remember when I started piecing this quilt: like so many of my projects they each have their rest periods when I get stuck and/or distracted by other matters.  Anyway at some point in 2019 I decided that the time had come to 'get Facet done'!

This design is not as daunting as some 'arty' quilts.  The instructions give clear directions for sorting the fabrics into colour groups, focusing also on relative lights and darks.  I needed four dark sets (from my available stash of fabrics I chose purples, reds, browns and greens) and four light sets (pinks, oranges, blues and mossy greens).  

Because of the multicolour character if many of Kaffe Fassett's fabrics there is plenty of room for interpretation of which group a fabric fits into, and this gives real depth and variation within the blocks.  Where I was short of fabrics from the KF stable (mostly in regard to the light groups), I did add in a few others from my general stash to increase the variety.

The fact that the strips for the strip sets were cut into different widths, varying between 1 1/4" and 3", and I had to use lots of fabrics freed me to be bolder in my fabric choices.  The exact position of each individual fabric became less important than the overall light/dark colour grouping, so I didn't feel intimidated by having to make the 'right' decision in relation to a particular fabric.

The method was right up my street too: lots of cutting and machine stitching into strip sets, pressing and trimming into large rectangles (measuring precisely 8 5/8" x 17 5/8"!), which were then cut diagonally into long triangles, rearranged and stitched together in blocks.

I put the spare triangles on the back - too delicious not to use, even though I had plenty of extra wide backing fabric and didn't really need to piece it!  The binding was a large multicolour floral in the Lotus design which carries flashes of all the dark colours around the quilt.

The longarm quilting was done by my friend Chris at The Quilt Room as this is a very large quilt (I had a lot of fabric and just kept on cutting strips!).  The quilt measured 87" x 116" which is quite a bit bigger than the version in the book.  I didn't want to add a border though that would be a good option if you didn't want to make so many blocks.  

It is quite a long thin quilt, so that's why the photos of the whole quilt on the washing line have the diamonds longways on. However that's how it came out for me in terms of the repetition of the blocks.  The quilt is 7 blocks long by 11 blocks across (the blocks are long and thin - quite unlike the majority of blocks we tend to work with as quilters). 

I hope all that wonderful KF colour has cheered up your Leap Year extra day and that you stay warm and safe, wherever you are.

Friday, 31 January 2020

January over - but some progress!

Hi all,
How has your January been?  Amazingly I have managed to catch up with quite a few things on the home admin side but also, and more importantly, I have made time to sew!

Last year I was a bit down in the dumps about how much fabric I had/how many WIPs had accumulated/how many ideas for quilts were unrealised and how I seemingly had no time to advance any, let alone all, of these matters.

So my goal for January was to tackle some of the WIPs which have been kicking about for one or several years, cluttering up my house and my brain.

Very happy to report that my goal has been achieved and I have got three quilt tops together.  I am sure they will now lie fallow till I get organised for a marathon quilting session, but at least the tops are together and I can liberate and use the leftovers in other projects. 

Which is a sort of tidying up, mentally as well as in the context of piles of stuff everywhere in physical space (aka lack of space).

So here they are in order of completing:

Carnival: the pieces for this quilt were cut out probably three years ago and I got as far as joining the elongated triangles into pairs but no further.  Ever indecisive, I had the 'pennants' up on a design board for ages, finally taking them down and putting them away when the room had to be decorated.  My motivation in tackling this one first is that I wanted to use any spare scraps for my Log Cabin squares (I said they were addictive to make!).

I guess over the intervening time I have become more relaxed about trying different colour combinations and not always playing safe, as this time around it didn't take nearly so long to lay out the pieces in an arrangement I was fairly happy with; I then got on with sewing it all together before I could change my mind.

I won't say I am any more skilful or instinctively good with colour as I don't feel skilled/clever at all in this area, but I do think that practice has helped, and making the Log Cabin squares has been a good exercise.

Anyway for better or worse I now have a completed top.  It measures 56" x 75" and the pattern is a free one available from Windham Fabrics.   The design is by Ashley Newcomb of the blog Film in the Fridge.  I love quite a few of her quilt designs and am currently using a free tutorial on her website for another quilt - but you will have to wait till February to see that one!

Meanwhile I am very happy with Carnival which makes me feel cheerful.  All the fabrics were from stash, including the plains.  Now I just have to decide how to quilt it...

Next up is a Fractured Star design.  I started this quilt in January 2019 in a workshop at Patchwork Cabin, a shop local to me which has since closed.  I loved making the blocks and made as many as I could on the day and in the week afterwards, then ground to a halt as I was overtaken by my older son's move to Belgium and then the village fete planning which I mentioned in a previous post.

I knew I wanted to make the quilt bigger than 25 blocks, and because the design has to be square, that meant making it a 7 x 7 block set: another 24 blocks were required!  I used mostly fabric from my stash and really enjoyed working out the layout with the different shades of blue.

I also decided that I didn't want the corner triangles to form a dense blue hourglass square where the blocks touch, so I modified the pattern and added more narrow sashing and tiny cornerstones to keep the whole quilt light and airy.

Here's a photo pf the back so you can see all the 1/4" seam allowances press neatly into the back of the 1/2" finished sashing.  The slight extra thickness in the sashing actually helps to frame the star blocks.  

Adding the sashing between the blocks also saved me from having to match the horizontal and vertical sashing/seam lines within the star blocks and avoided the lumps and bumps which would have occurred where all those seams would have come together.

Very happy with this one too, but it is large at 88"square: the blocks finish at 12".  The sashing between the blue star pieces of the block and between the blocks is cut 1" wide, so it and the cornerstones finish at 1/2".  The colours and shapes make me think of cool wintry snowflakes.  Looking forward to quilting this one with simple straight lines through the sashing once I find a suitable backing fabric.

Final finished top was a bonus; I picked out the fabric strips one evening last autumn with a new baby in mind.  The pattern is from Cluck Cluck Sew (Strip and Flip Baby Quilt, which is a free tutorial) and it is one which I have thought about and wanted to make for ages.  The strips sat there without any further action, and the baby duly arrived and received a different quilt...  But I finally managed to put the top together in a couple of evenings this month.

Fun to try for a rainbow effect, though my palette is more limited than the full spectrum of colour (determined by a jelly roll selection of strips I had on hand).  You do need strips the full width of fabric so fat quarters are no good for this project.  I am still pondering how to quilt it but no more babies in my vicinity are expected just yet, so I have a breathing space!

Spotty fabric for backing, by Riley Blake I think.  Quilt top measures 38" x 42" so I can just about squeeze it on to a 1 metre piece of backing fabric.

My other great achievement this January (having failed last year) was to make some marmalade.  I do love the zing of marmalade on sourdough toast for breakfast - jam just doesn't cut through and wake me up!

Have a great weekend, and here's to a productive February!