Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Taking a break

Just to say we're off on our hols to (hopefully) sunny Cornwall.  Though I am taking my sewing I'm not entirely sure how much progress will be made...

To encourage you back to visit the blog in a week or so's time, I am posting a picture of my family's very favourite icecream: the sensational, once tasted never surpassed, Honeycomb Ice Cream.

You don't need an expensive icecream maker to make it, nor do you need to churn or beat the freezing slush every couple of hours for the best part of a day so it doesn't have nasty ice crystals to prickle your tongue.

It is not only the best but it is also the EASIEST ice cream to make and I will post the recipe when I am back home.  Promise.

When I started this blog I intended to 'keep it quilty' at all times but I hope you will forgive this lapse - it is summer after all and I haven't quite got any quilt finishes to show you.

And even dedicated quilters need to eat delicious things from time to time....

Enjoy the rest of the summer.  Alison

Friday, 11 July 2014

Having a ripping time?

This week has been about quilting, or, should I say, un-quilting?  I have been putting off finishing some of my tops in favour of what I love best: cutting up and chain piecing fabric.  But class deadlines and, even more, knowing I am accountable to this blog and those of you who are kind enough to drop by for a look now and then, made me resolve that this week was quilting week.  Fewer family demands - or should that be, fewer demanding family members at home? - meant that I could get to spend more than about half an hour at a stretch at the machine: what could be nicer?

Well, being better at machine quilting would be nicer for a start....  I know it takes practice but I feel like I have been practising forever.  First off, I thought I would warm up with some straightforward straight line walking foot work.  I layered the small chevron bordered star quilt (blogged about here) and got busy.

Ditch stitching all pretty routine till I decided (about half way through) that I didn't like the colour I had chosen for the top thread - too dark, so every tiny imperfection jumped up and hit me in the eye.  No good telling myself it wouldn't show once the quilt was washed and had crinkled up a bit.
Where's my seam ripper?

It takes so much longer to remove stitches than to put them in the quilt in the first place.  My own fault for rushing rather than reflecting a little longer.  The stone coloured thread matched the backing perfectly and I went for a soft cream on top as the better choice;  it does show on the dark stars but melts into the cream background fabrics.  Much better, and I enjoyed the rest of the process.

I know it is only ditch stitching and diagonals, but it does the job and adds a reasonable amount of quilting texture to a simple quilt.  No puckers on the back - hurray.  Binding on and into my LQS to promote the class in the autumn.  That's my finish for this week and I'm linking today to Crazy Mom Quilts.

The quilt is 45" square if anyone needs to know its vital statistics.  It did feel weird working with Christmas colours and holly backing in June/July before the schools have even broken up, but we are past the longest day now.  Don't know quite where the first half of 2014 has gone...

Now feeling I was into my stride I tackled the quilting on the Strips that Sizzle quilt (blogged about here and here). Yes, I know it's a long time ago; the quilt has been layered and looking at me accusingly from the end of the table for a while now.  All because I wanted to try spiral quilting - I just couldn't get up the nerve.  I knew from Amanda Jean's helpful tips on spiral quilting (here) that I would need to FMQ the very centre as the curve would be too tight for the walking foot (and I did my own research to check - first lot of ripping out).

So I practised the initial spiral on a scrap sandwich (that must sound very odd to any non-quilters out there: BLT anyone?).  Not too bad, now for the actual quilt.

Alas, it's a lot harder to manage a smooth spiral with a largish (65" square) layered top under the needle than it is with a 12" square sample.  Suffice to say that I tried, and failed, four times: that's a lot of ripping out of very small stitches.  Even more impressed that Amanda Jean managed it on her monster Scrap Vortex quilt...

My attempt abandoned, for now anyway, I have resorted to straight lines again with the walking foot.

So this one is not finished but it is well on the way at last.  There is quite a bit of quilt wrangling involved in the quilting on the pink - I know I could FMQ that but still not brave enough - but the blue is a doddle and adds a contrasting texture which I think works OK.  I have put the binding on early to reduce the amount of fabric going under the arm, but not yet slipstitched it in place.

One other comment: I put a skinny flange (folded slip of pink fabric) between the quilt centre and the pieced outer border to give visual definition/delineation without complicating the fit of the outer pieces; I do like it but it's a nightmare to avoid when quilting.

Possibly something better suited to hand quilting when it is easier to avoid, or OK if you are happy to quilt right over it which I didn't want to do here.  Oh well, another lesson learned.

Have fun this weekend, whatever you have planned.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Thirties fix: Triple Irish Flower Quilt and scrappy diamonds

Busy, busy, busy couple of weeks so not much sewing done.  Bits and pieces here and there in odd scraps of time but I don't feel I have really followed through properly on very much.  Quite frustrating, but yesterday I did manage to finish putting together my Triple Irish Rose Chain  top, so I can just about justify linking to Crazy Mom Quilts today.

You may recall from an earlier post (here) that I started this quilt to use up some of my old Thirties fabrics.  I have had the pattern (by Sheri Howard here on Moda Bakeshop) in my to-do pile for ages: since 2009 in fact.  Making the Double Irish Chain quilts recently spurred me on to tackle the Triple.  This pattern is a variation based on an old quilt, and I really liked the flowers created in the middles of the print blocks.

 I made my version a bit bigger than the pattern given: 49 blocks rather than 25, so the centre of my quilt measures 45" square, and I decided to add the pieced border which was on the original: yes, you guessed right, I still had oodles of pieced strips over and needed to use up more fabric....  With the border the top measures 62" square.

The border took almost as long to piece as the centre of the quilt but I feel it was worth it - I hope you agree.

The rather pretty zigzag edge will, alas, be chopped off when I have finished the quilting: I have left it untrimmed for now to try to stop the seams at the edges splitting, though I think I will probably staystitch as well, to be on the safe side - there are an awful lot of seams in the border....

I still have strips of pieced 1" squares so I will have to think of a project to use them up: watch this space.

Last night I wanted to do some mindless stitching for an hour to unwind so I sewed the uneven scraps and strings of the leftover Thirties fabrics to a firm synthetic foundation which I had cut into Lemoyne Star diamonds.

This is an ongoing project which won't be assembled for a good while yet, but it is incredibly satisfying to take a handful of scraps and produce a pile of neat finished shapes ready to stitch together at some time in the future for another quilt.

Much nicer than having the scraps hanging around in yet another plastic carrier bag, making me feel guilty.