Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Secret Garden Scrappy not-quite Bargello

Quick post today to link up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.  You may recall I bought some FQs of Nel Whatmore's Secret Garden when I was at NEC in August (part of this post).

I just fell for the colours, the richness and depth of the coral, orange and purple, and decided I wanted to keep the pieces fairly large.  So eventually, after much deliberation and fondling of fabric I settled on the Scrappy Bargello pattern from Bonnie Hunter's long list of great free patterns at  It's a bit like Scrappy Trips, but not absolutely the same.  Equally fun though.

I have made several of Bonnie's patterns before as I love her scrappy approach and quick cutting and piecing methods.  A few years ago I made a Scrappy Bargello with 2 1/2" strips and it is still on my bed and one of my all-time favourite quilts.

So I decided it was time for another and that it would suit this fabric collection with added Fair Trade plains and a couple of Oakshott stripes from stash.  I cut the strips 3" for a change and now have a top measuring 60" square.  I think, though, that I'd like to add a couple of borders, and I am just waiting for the fabric to arrive, so it's still a WIP.

Have to confess to a major boo-boo however, which will be only too obvious from this last picture.... I must have been looking at too many Scrappy Trips on the web, and doing the pattern from memory, because I have set the blocks as for a Scrappy Trip Around the World, NOT for a Bargello!!!!   Oops...

Still, I like the fabric, I like the randomness, nobody's perfect....Will just have to re-title it when the borders are on and no-one will ever know...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Time to catch up, and a tutorial

Such a busy few days.  Sorry to have neglected the blog.  Here is a whistlestop tour of what has been going on (in reverse order):

I did a demo on Saturday at our Regional Quilt Day.  Showed how to make easy HST's with my two favourite methods: Easy Triangles on a Roll for bulk production and Bloc_loc rulers to square up larger/scrap HST's.  Pinned up these leftover 2" HST's in the traditional 18th century Dutch Chintz quilt layout to show how much fun you can have when you have already made a stack of the little darlings.  Met lots of lovely ladies and listened to two great talks, one on feedsack quilts and one on art quilts.  Good day.

I made some bunting to use up the last of my furnishing fabric samples and thought you might like a tutorial.  I've put this at the end of the post so you can skip it if you are all bunting-ed out, now the summer is over!

I finished piecing a small top, the blocks for which I made  back in June.  I quite often get stuck on a quilt and/or distracted and start something else.  This time it was because I wasn't quite sure about the light blue Flurry sashing, but I didn't want to use white/cream.  Anyway I put it away and when I got it out again I decided it would do.  Too late to change my mind now...

So it is pieced together and ready for layering and quilting.  Based on a free Moda Bakeshop pattern from quite a while ago, Whirly Wheels Baby Quilt, here.

I used two Charm packs, Bloomin' Fresh by Deb Strain for Moda, rather than a Jelly Roll, and adapted the pattern to what I had available, so made 16 blocks rather than 20.

I like to challenge myself with Charm packs and see if I can use every scrap.

This time I made bonus HST's from the stitch'n'flip corners, so my top has pinwheels in the sashing cornerstones (16 blocks yielded 16 pinwheels so none for the top and bottom sashing of the quilt - too bad).

And not even a tiny square left over: success!

With 2 1/2" wide sashing and 8" blocks (finished measurements) the quilt measures 45" square, so I have added a strip of leftover Flurry dots to the backing.  Hope to show it to you finished later this week.

I did promise in my last post to put up a picture of the Feathered Star with borders.  I did put them on last week when I said I had, but just haven't had a chance to get on the computer till now.  Apologies.
The fabric I used for the inner border was the same as for the points of the stars, from the Floral Trails range, and for the outer border was an old Thimbleberries Paintbox.  Still in two minds, but I was determined to use from stash.

Digging out that old Thimbleberries print reminded me of another UFO which uses lots of Lynette Jensen's fabrics, so I have been doing a bit of piecing on this project too.  But that will have to wait for next time...

Now for the bunting tutorial, for anyone who has bravely stuck it out to the end of this post!

I love bunting, I think it adds a jolly, vintage flavour to any proceeding and I am so glad it has come back into fashion these last few years.  There are lots of ways to make bunting and you may have your own favourite method, but I would like to share my method which makes a strong, durable bunting which is ideal for outdoor functions, especially if you have an unreliable climate as we do in the UK.

This method arose from the fact that I wanted to make my bunting out of furnishing fabric samples; you know, the books of samples for posh curtains and upholstery which you can sometimes pick up for next to nothing from interior design shops when they are updating their ranges.  The size of the samples varies but there is often quite a lot of fabric in the books, and it is usually of very good quality but too thick for most quilting purposes.

So I decided that the method I used could not involve seams and turning right sides out.  This led me to Bondaweb (other brands of fusible web will work equally well) which does add to the cost, but the extra stiffness which the glue gives to the fabric makes the bunting hang well and prevents creases.

Ok, ready to start?  You will need:

  • Fabric.  How much depends on how much bunting you want to make.  With me, it's usually how much fabric do I want to use up!  Furnishing weight is good, remnants of curtain material, dressmaking remnants - this is one time you can use heavier fabrics as you will not have to worry about seam allowances.
  • Tape.  I use a cream cotton herringbone tape which is 1 1/2" wide.  Remember the width is important as the tape will be doubled over the top of the pennants and then stitched down.  If you are making smaller pennants you may be able to manage with narrower tape but it should be durable if the bunting is to hang outside.  How much depends on how much bunting you want to make and whether you are making it to fit a specific place - I usually make mine in 4 metre lengths: this will swag between two six foot wide fence panels as in the picture at the top of this tutorial.  I can fit 23 pennants on this length of tape.
  • Bondaweb or other fusible web.  How much depends on size of your pennants ie how many you can fit on the web and how many you need.  I suggest you start with 2 metres and see how you go.

First you will need to make a template for the size of bunting 'flag' or pennant you want.  I based mine on a sheet of A4 paper which I folded down the middle.  I then drew a line from the top corner down to the midpoint on the bottom edge and cut along that line.  This gives a good size pennant for outdoor use.  

If you are using remnants you may need to adjust the size to fit the fabric you have available so as to maximise the number of pennants you can get out of what you have available.  So long as all are the same it doesn't matter exactly what size/proportion your personal pennants are.  Mine measure 6 1/2" across the top and 9 1/2" from the top edge to the tip, but it really doesn't matter.

Using your template, draw out pennant shapes on the paper side of the Bondaweb.  Offset them to get as many as you can.  Cut the shapes out on the drawn lines.

Following the instructions for your brand of fusible, iron the pennant shapes to the reverse of the fabric you are using.  Remember that the pennant will be double sided, so if you want the same fabric front and back you will need to leave a space for the second stage of the fusing process ie you need two pieces of fabric for each piece of Bondaweb.  When the fabric/fusible has cooled, cut out with a rotary cutter and ruler.

The next stage is to remove the backing paper, and here I'd like to share a tip I picked up somewhere along the road:  to help you start peeling off the paper, score a line with a pin through the paper (but don't go so deep you damage the fabric!) and that will give you a place to start.  You will have more difficulty if you try to pick apart at the edge of the piece and the bias edges will lose their crispness.

Having removed the papers you now have a pennant which has glue web on the back: you need to lay this, right sides uppermost, glue down, on the wrong side of another piece of fabric.  I used the same fabric for both sides where I could but ended up using some odd leftovers. Press according to maunfacturer's instructions to stick the web to the fabric, then when it is cool, cut out using the edges of the top pennant as the guide.

You will eventually have a stack of double-sided pennants like this.  You could stitch them to the tape at this point, but for extra durability I would recommend that you stitch a tiny zigzag along yje two sloping edges (not the top edge as it will be under the tape) to ensure that with use and weather the layers of fabric and Bondaweb do not come apart.  You can chain piece this part if you like - you won't be surprised to know that I do!

Once that task is done, you are nearly there.  Now you can stitch the pennants to the tape.  I like to use quite a wide tape because my pennants are quite big; if you are have made daintier pennant, perhaps for indoor use, then you could use a narrower tape or maybe ribbon.  The wide tape is relatively expensive but it is durable and my bunting gets a lot of use!

Fold the tape in half, turning the raw end in, and stitch close to the edge for about 4": this will make your hanging loop (we will come back to that).  Then, tuck the top edge of the first pennant under the fold of the tape, making sure that the tape is equally distributed so that when you stitch close to the edge you catch the back as well as the front.

Continue adding pennants, butting the tips of each so they just touch under the tape (you can space them further apart of you wish but don't overlap as it makes it too bulky).

When you have come to within 4" to the end of the tape, stitch the two sides of the tape together as you did at the beginning, remembering to turn in the raw end.

Then stitch another line all the way along the string of bunting for strength - you can even add a third line if you are using a wide tape.  This is also a good time to check that you have not missed any places on the back.

Final task is to make the loops at either end: just fold the ends back on themselves by about and inch and a half and stitch down.  You can then thread a piece of string through the loop and tie the string to the fence post or whatever structure you are decorating.  
Completed stack of bunting, ready to be used at the next village fete or outdoor party next year - hooray!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Friday finish - at last!

After an age of not really finishing anything, a FINISH for Finish it up Friday!

And even better, it's a finish of an old UFO.  The blue and yellow pinwheels are bonus HST's from a quilt I made with signature blocks for our vicar, Barbara, when she was leaving our village to take up a post in another parish  - now about 10 years ago!

This is an old photo of the quilt we gave her; it is similar in design to the little purple quilt here but with bigger, (6"), blocks.

Members of the parish wrote messages and signed their names across the calico 'stripe' in the centre of the block using blue permanent ink Pigma pens.  I stabilised the white section with freezer paper on the reverse so that the fabric wouldn't shift when written on.

Blue and yellow together aren't really my colours, and it took me a while to decide what to do with the leftover HST's.  I am pleased with the alternating pinwheels: nice and fresh against the white calico.

The piecing isn't perfect so don't look too closely.  I wanted to avoid the bulk in the centre of the pinwheel,  inevitable even with careful pressing, so I quilted parallel lines 1/4" either side of the seam line.  I felt it needed more, so added a line of stitching in the ditch in between; this gives a pleasing plaid effect on the reverse.

Backing pieced from stash, not quite big enough so it was eked out with more white calico.  Plain navy binding encloses all the scrappiness.

The quilt measures 45" x 60".

Feels so good to have made something from 'nothing' and to have emptied another plastic bag which had been lurking at the back of the cupboard.  This quilt will be donated to our local Project Linus, and I hope it will give pleasure to someone somewhere.

Also managed to trim my Feathered Star blocks on Wednesday and have got the top together.  This one will take me a while to complete as I plan to handquilt.

The top measures 59" square at this stage - I've just decided that it needs borders, so it's not really finished at all!

The fabric is Floral Trails by Barbara Brackman and Terry Clothier Thompson for Moda and the selvedge says 1999!

Since drafting this post I have added my borders but it's too dark now for a photo.  I will post a picture with borders tomorrow, I hope.

Linking to Crazy Mom Quilts - Amanda Jean has also finished a UFO today for charity - and it wasn't even one of her own!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


I thought I'd make up for lack of posts in August by writing a few more in September.  But with so many WIP's to choose from, I could link with Lee's blog every Wednesday from now until Christmas...

So for today, I'll show you my ongoing English paper piecing project, which I started a couple of years ago when I had a very long train journey to make to the north of Scotland.  It's amazing how many hexagons you can fold over papers in six hours!

It is a bit of a joke, me doing EPP hexagons, because when I was a teenager the only thing people thought of when patchwork was mentioned was hexagons over papers in the classic Grandmother's Flower Garden layout.  Usually made with dressmaking offcuts, so often including really ghastly fabrics (remember Crimplene, anyone?).  I hated that layout and vowed never to make a patchwork quilt.

Forty years on, who could have guessed that hexagons would be fashionable and fabulous in new fabrics, and that the whole EPP thing would be a trend?

I still can't bring myself to do a Grandmother's Flower Garden layout, so I have been experimenting with a diamond/lozenge shape; however I don't like the units placed edge to edge - too busy.

Inspiration finally dawned, and I have recently been covering 1" diamonds to set between the lozenges.  They will create a dark chain which I hope will give definition and unity to the design.

The fabrics are all leftovers from various Japanese taupe quilts.  I still seem to have a load of these in my stash.  I do like them, though they look a little drab beside my brighter, more contemporary fabrics.  I guess it's because it is nearly the end of summer here: once it is properly autumn, the cosy browns and greys will be right at home.

I love the fact that we patchworkers can change our palettes with the seasons, and that the wonderful fabric designers and manufacturers keep on producing in such quality and variety.  No more Crimplene, anyway!

Linking to Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Plain sewing and feathered stars

Feathered stars are most definitely NOT plain sewing, but more about them later...

The school holidays are nearly over and the last couple of weeks have been busy with the more mundane tasks in life: turning out cupboards, tidying, mending and generally getting ready for a new term.  This is my younger son's last year at school and he is preoccupied with thinking about the next stage of his education. My daughter by contrast, having finished at university, is home to live for a while, as she starts her first job up in London this week.  So lots going on, which has limited my sewing time and shifted my focus.

As a consequence of all that, my finishes have been rather dull ones which don't merit a photograph:

  • I have made four 'housewife' pillowcases with plain white cotton fabric which I recall my mother offloading on to me many years ago, so it is probably forty years old.  Very plain but satisfying to make (though I struggled for a while to work out how to enclose all the seams).

  • I sacrificed some old cushions to refill a couple of pillows whose feathers had disintegrated, and made a new small rectangular pillow pad to fit a small cushion cover I made a year ago and hadn't got round to finishing...

  • I resurrected my dressmaking skills to cut down a long tweed skirt (from my teens, when we used to wear long in the evenings...thank goodness those days are gone) and made a simple A-line skirt for my daughter as the tweed was just too gorgeous to throw away.  Just the hem to do when she decides on the length she wants.  Gosh, I struggled to make a 5/8" seam allowance - I kept wanting to sew 1/4" - I have been a patchworker for too long!

  • Plus a variety of repairs to clothing; my mending basket has been overflowing for some time, but it's more pleasurable to make quilts out of pretty new fabric than to patch the knees of a pair of jeans, don't you agree?

Altogether a glut of what used to be called 'plain sewing', the ordinary domestic stuff of a housewife's life in the old days, and a very important skill in thriftier and less affluent times.

By way of contrast, I have been working away on my Feathered Star blocks, a UFO from a long time ago which I resurrected here.  I finished all nine blocks and have made the cornerstones, so my challenge is to get the blocks sashed and the top together by Friday.

 To close, a taste of summer: I have been using cleaned out drinks containers as thread/scrap tidies.  Cute, but I still won't be showing you a picture of the floor... I am such a messy sewer, and yet I love to produce good, neat work.  That's why my favourite part is hand stitching the binding!