Friday, 31 January 2014

Friday finishes

Finished hand stitching the binding on to my Bright Charm Star quilt.  After agonising about the tiny orange stripe (orange not really my colour) but finding all the aquas I had looked a bit dull, I am really pleased with the finished result.  Not so bright that it distracts from the stars, but jolly enough to fit with the rest of the brightness.  It just shows how you can't always know in advance what is right as a finish, and how auditioning fabrics can open your eyes (certainly mine) to great new possibilities.  The stripe is by Marisa and Creative Thursday for Andover Fabrics.

I had hoped also to have finished stitching the binding on my Washington Log Cabin Quilt (blogged about here) but it is a monster - 90" x 108", and I am only about half way round.  My friend Susie returned the quilt to me last Friday after doing a wonderful job longarm quilting feathers and ribbons all over in a dark cream thread.

I am thrilled with it, and I found I had just enough of the navy blue plain fabric used for the centre squares to bind.  I cut the strips 2 1/4" wide for a straight doublefold binding: this is my preferred width for most quilts, though for small ones like the Bright Charm Star I find 2" is more in proportion to the size of the quilt.

This week I also machine quilted another small quilt, Oakshott Boxes, which I made as a sample for a partial piecing class.  Now that it's quilted you can't actually see the seam lines (!) but they are there: look at the striped fabric square in the middle of the photo and you will see that all the strips are the same length, which doesn't happen with the Log Cabin technique of building around a central square.  Not that it matters in most cases perhaps, but sometimes it is nice to know how to achieve a particular effect.  I will try and post a tutorial about this soon in case any of you are interested.

The quilt is backed and bound with more Oakshott shot cotton.  I have to say that despite the fairly thin feel of the fabric it pieced and pressed like a dream and the shot effect is  lovely.  Because of this I used two different variegated threads (both Gutermann 30 wt) on the front and back, and I straight line quilted with the walking foot for speed and simplicity.  By the time I had finished the hand stitching it was too dark to take photographs, so here are some not-quite-finished photos.

Hurray for January being finished at last and for finishes generally!  We have had 8" of rain in Surrey this month (average for Jan here is 2") and there is more to come this weekend.  There are people in Somerset who have been flooded since Christmas: this is the wettest winter for almost a century after the driest summer for almost a century.  And poor North America suffering such prolonged ultra-low temperatures.  Let's all hope for an improvement and a return to good old average soon.

Meanwhile, enjoy your quilting, whatever you are working on.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Bright Charm Star

A few finishes in the offing at last - hope to be able to report some completed by Friday.  Do you work on several (or lots) of different projects at once, or are you focused and see a quilt through from start to finish before you begin something new?

I think you may know already which sort of quilter I am, so I will confess to being immersed in more WIPs than I am prepared to spend precious time counting.  Part of the problem is teaching, because I am often making samples in alternative colourways to promote classes or try out new ideas for what might become a class; part is the past classes I have done myself as a student - I have quite a few projects I started and then I diverted to another class without finishing the earlier quilt.  Not a bad way to acquire new skills in a short time, but not good in terms of seeing a quilt through to the end, which also yields important lessons, not least in developing quilting skills.

So this blog, and my paper journal which preceded it, is intended to help me do some serious finishing.  Don't misunderstand me, I absolutely love teaching and the opportunities it gives me to share tips and ideas and to see other people discovering p&q and enjoying their sewing.  I also love taking new classes to be on the receiving end of new ideas and tips, to meet and be inspired by other people's work and to try something a little outside my comfort zone.  But I need to finish stuff too...

So I am very happy that I have a few things approaching the finish line which have been pieced and lying about for a while.  First up today is my Bright Charm Star, previously mentioned on 21 October 2013 (haven't yet learned how to link to my earlier posts!).  I had fun making this bright version with charm packs from Wrens & Friends by Gina Martin, Snap Pop by Sandy Gervais, and Simply Color by Vanessa Christensen of V and Co. all for Moda.

I wanted a relatively quick finish as I completed the piecing well before Christmas, so, having caught up with recent posts from Rita of Red Pepper Quilts, I decided to have a go at her style of dense grid quilting. I based the grid on the little 1" squares which make up the centres of the stars.

Actually, to be truthful, I didn't set out with this intention: I did what I usually do, which is to quilt the sashing for stability, then quilt some more lines (in this case, either side of the pieced centre square) and then think about whether the quilt needed more quilting.  I felt that it definitely did and, having seen Rita's lovely quilts, decided to give the 1" grid a go.

I am very pleased with the result which I think suits the style of the quilt, though I am sure my grid lines aren't as beautifully straight as hers. So thank you, Rita, for inspiring me - I am delighted to have tried something new.  I just have to stitch down the binding now and get it into my LQS.
(Backing fabric: Simply Style by Vanessa Christenson)

Despite good intentions over recent months only to buy new fabric for backings and to use what I have at home for all my tops, I couldn't resist a few purchases at the recent quilt show at Ardingly in West Sussex and from  A little taste of spring as we face yet more greyness, wind and rain this week.  Oh well, at least I needn't feel guilty about not being out in the garden...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Indigo Dreams

Two lovely sunny days have cheered me up no end, so now I can show you the quilt I finished last Friday but couldn't photograph so couldn't post.  I am really happy with it for several reasons:

1.  I pieced the top a couple of years ago so it's great to have finished a UFO.

2. It uses a great collection of reproduction indigoes which even a couple of years ago had been in my stash for far too long.  The selvage just says 'Vintage Indigo by Harriet Hargrave for P&B Textiles' and the date is...2002.  Good thing fabric doesn't go off!

3. The design is a copy of a vintage quilt I saw in a book and longed to make.  I just have a photocopy which doesn't give any provenance (but I will keep looking).  It is simply described as Broken Dishes Variation 1875-1900, though there is a pattern for a similar quilt in different colours in Fons and Porter's Fat Quarter Friendly which is called Double X.

4. It is the first quilt I have quilted on my new Juki sewing machine.  I just quilted with a walking foot as I wanted a utility feel to the quilting and for nothing to detract from the graphic block design.  It is quite a big quilt for me, 75" x 88", and I would have struggled to get it through my old Bernina, but the new machine just crunched through all the seams and didn't miss a stitch.  The extra space under the arm and the needle down function are fab.

Sorry, I know lots of you probably have amazing machines because you all do such great work, but it is a real treat for me to upgrade and it's all thanks to my mum who has very generously given me an advance on all future Christmas and birthday presents for evermore.  Best present ever, Mum, thank you.

5. I had to wash it after I finished because the calico was looking a little grubby and it has to go into my LQS as I am hoping to teach it as a class - the indigo didn't run!  Three cheers for Harriet and P&B Textiles!

As you may have gathered from this, I am not a pre-washer: I have quite enough laundry to do for the family without washing my stash too.  But I admit I wasn't sure I had done the right thing this time.  I confess I washed the leftover fabric first with a colour catcher before risking the entire quilt, but I shouldn't have worried.
Good quality quilting fabric from a reputable manufacturer is worth every penny.

Now I am playing with colour and more contemporary fabrics - isn't quilting wonderful!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Distinct lack of Resolution

Oh dear, I had not realised it was such a long time since I last blogged...  I can only plead the usual pre- and post-Christmas and New Year rushing around but everybody has to deal with that and some people out there blog twice a week regardless.  So you won't be surprised that one of my rather belated New Year resolutions is to try and blog more regularly.

I have been keeping up with the sewing pretty much, though I did have to put everything away for about two weeks so we could actually all eat at the dining room table (no dedicated sewing room, alas, in this house - yet...) but a week or so ago I got out my stuff and got back into various projects.  So why didn't I blog last week, I hear you say?  Well, in truth it is the weather that has been letting me down.

We have had a shocking amount of rain over the last month and this has meant local flooding (sadly, several friends had to leave their homes on Christmas Eve) and very gloomy, grey days which make it difficult to get decent photos to post.  So today's pictures are of pieces I managed to finish last Friday but failed to post, and today's finish I haven't yet managed to photograph, so I will have to show you that one later...

This is my Envelope Quilt.  I am very glad indeed to have finished this one as I started it in a class with Carolyn Forster in October 2006!  It has been languishing in a cupboard as I ground to a halt once I had made all the 'envelopes' and had to handquilt - the fate of many of my projects: I love the look of handquilting and quite like doing it but it is so SLOW, and I have so many other quilts I want to piece and so much fabric I want/need to use.  Anyway in the autumn I needed a project I could take out and about and do while 'watching' child's sport and I found this.

The envelopes are reversible, made from a four-patch which is then twisted and stuffed with a square of wadding.  They measure 5 1/2" square and the quilt is 44" x 60 1/2" (8 blocks by 11).  Very clever and fun to do BUT then you have to quilt each square, then ladder stitch the squares together and quilt again over the joins to complete the design, before finally getting the binding on which I did last week - hooray!

I am pleased with it but if I were to make another I think I would join and quilt the envelopes with a zigzag or decorative machine stitch, both for strength and speed.  So thanks, Carolyn, for old times' sake, or should I say 'auld acquaintance, auld lang syne' as we are mid-way between Hogmanay and Burns' Night!